Law, Rights and Constitutional Politics

12 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2013 Last revised: 6 Dec 2013

See all articles by Mark Elliott

Mark Elliott

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law

Date Written: December 3, 2013


In this paper, I reflect on the ongoing debate concerning the protection of human rights in the UK. I attempt to situate that debate within its legal and political context by examining the underlying reasons that might explain why the Act has been the source of so much controversy. Against that background, I assess how the debate is likely to play out over the coming years. I outline the main options for reform, and explain that the possibilities open to lawmakers will vary significantly depending upon whether the UK remains a party to the European Convention on Human Rights or (as some senior Conservatives now openly contemplate) withdraws from it. However, I go on to suggest that those who suppose that ECHR withdrawal would constitute (from the perspective of human-rights sceptics) some sort of panacea may be mistaken, and argue that the common-law doctrine of constitutional rights means that ECHR withdrawal would not necessarily yield a legal blank canvas.

Keywords: human rights, common law rights, european convention on human rights, human rights act

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K30

Suggested Citation

Elliott, Mark C., Law, Rights and Constitutional Politics (December 3, 2013). University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 55/2013, Available at SSRN: or

Mark C. Elliott (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law ( email )

10 West Road
Cambridge, CB3 9DZ
United Kingdom

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