Millions did not vote in favour of the UK withdrawing from the ECHR

2 June 2023
What was claimed

Millions of Britons voted to end the jurisdiction of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Our verdict

The ECHR is an entirely separate institution to the EU which the UK left as a result of Brexit. There has never been a referendum on ECHR membership.

In a recent letter to the Prime Minister, Andrea Jenkyns MP claimed that millions of people had voted for the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). 

The letter, which the Conservative MP shared on Twitter on 17 May, claimed that the “overwhelming majority” of British people wanted to withdraw from the convention and added: “My constituents, alongside many millions in our Nation, voted to end the jurisdiction of this foreign court, which has sought to delay our deportation of illegal immigrants to Rwanda, under Rule 39.”

Her claim appears to confuse the ECHR—which protects the human rights of people in countries that belong to the Council of Europe—with the European Union (EU) which the UK left in 2020. 

It is also possible that Ms Jenkyns may have confused the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), another institution within the EU, with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), an institution of the Council of Europe.

Although some politicians are reportedly considering withdrawing the UK from the ECHR or calling for a referendum on continued membership, no such vote has ever been put to the public. 

MPs should correct false or misleading claims made in their capacity as public representatives and uphold the principle of honesty by taking responsibility for improving the correction of false and misleading claims outside of Parliament.

Honesty in public debate matters

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The EU and ECHR are separate

On 23 June 2016, the UK held a referendum on whether to continue its membership of the EU. More than 33 million votes were cast, with 51.9% in favour of leaving the EU. 

This began the process known as Brexit and the UK officially left the EU at 11pm on 31 December 2020. 

The ECHR is part of the Council of Europe, a human rights organisation of which the UK is still a member, alongside 45 other countries. All 27 member states of the EU are in the Council of Europe.

Leaving the EU has had no direct impact on the UK’s obligations under the ECHR. This is why the first attempt to deport asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda under a new government policy last June was able to be blocked following an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) which is used to uphold the ECHR. 

A Community Note has since been added to Ms Jenkyns’ original tweet  pointing out that “millions voted to leave the EU” in 2016, and “the EU is not the same thing as the ECtHR”.

We have been unable to find any evidence that supports the claim that millions have voted in favour of withdrawing from the ECHR. 

A February 2023 survey conducted by YouGov found 55% of respondents were in favour of remaining under the ECHR. A total of 23% said Britain should withdraw from the convention and a similar number reported being unsure. 

In her letter Ms Jenkyns makes reference to a petition she launched, in conjunction with the Conservative Post, which she claims has received the support of at least 15,000 people who had "expressed their desire to leave the jurisdiction of the ECHR with immediate effect and return UK law making power to our Westminster Parliament."

However, this claim cannot be verified as the petition does not feature a running total. 

We have written to Ms Jenkyns about her letter and will update this article should we receive a response. 

We deserve better than bad information.

After we published this fact check, we contacted Andrea Jenkyns to request a correction regarding this claim.

Ms Jenkyns did not respond.

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