IT is hardly surprising that Britain has so much difficulty persuading some of its European Union partners of its total commitment to the idea of Europe. Too often, the first reaction of politicians in the UK to restrictions which EU or other legislation impose on them is to suggest withdrawal from the law or directive which is giving them so much trouble. In William Hague's time as leader of the Conservatives there was strong pressure on him for an election commitment that Britain would “opt–out” of the EU if there were moves towards increased federalism. There was, of course, no possibility of negotiating any such deal. Now the government is hinting that it may consider a suggestion first made by the Conservatives to withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights in order to give greater scope for the expulsion of unwanted immigrants. The focus is on Article 3 of the Convention which bars the return of people to a country where they may suffer inhuman or degrading treatment. If this restriction were to be removed Britain would be able to wash its hands of people it is currently obliged to keep. It has even been suggested that to achieve this outcome Britain should withdraw from the Convention and then re–enter with a clause attached to Article 3 allowing deportations in certain circumstances. Lawyers have pointed out that the Convention specificially prohibits reservations to Article 3. But, legal considerations aside, should there not first be concern about any such reservation on humanitarian grounds?

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