On 25 March 2020, the UK passed its Coronavirus Act 2020 which contains sweeping emergency powers to enable the UK Government to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

These powers are portrayed as necessary to tackle issues of life and death and are generally of a temporary nature. The UK Government has published a statement of compatibility under section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998  effectively stating that in the circumstances the Coronavirus Act 2020 complies with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Whether or not this statement is accurate will no doubt be debated but some concerns have been raised on this point by human rights organisations.

The concerns are compounded by the reluctance of the UK Government to commit so far in its negotiations with the EU to continued participation in the ECHR - though the ECHR is not an EU treaty as such.

Brexit quite understandably has taken a back seat in the public gaze in the face of the terrible onslaught of the coronavirus but the level of human rights commitment (if any)  which the UK Government is prepared to make on behalf of the UK will inevitably continue to colour the negotiations between the UK and the EU as to their future relationship, once the post-Brexit transition period has come to an end on 31 December 2020.

This is not to say that there is a total stand-off between the UK and EU on the UK's response to the coronavirus crisis. Far from it!

On the same day as the Coronavirus Act 2020 was passed into UK law (25 March 2020), the European Commission announced that it had decided to approve, under the EU state aid rules, the UK Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and a parallel scheme for direct grants to SMEs.

This does show that the EU and the UK can still be on the same side when it really matters.

The UK and EU member states are for the most part liberal democracies and it is important that they are  responsive on human rights matters.