Many human rights organisations worried by the Brexit* Bill’s threat to human rights
Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and Liberty are among those who are expressing concerns that the EU (Withdrawal) bill will weaken our human rights protections because it seeks to remove the Charter of Fundamental Rights from our law. The Charter is important because it protects fundamental issues important to us such as dignity, data, worker’s rights, children and more. By excluding this, our rights will be weakened. In their annual report, Human Rights Watch say:
More than six months after the government formally triggered the start of Brexit, significant concerns remained about the status of rights and protection for all UK residents derived from EU law after the UK leaves the EU. A draft law to move EU law into domestic law after Brexit raised serious concerns about granting broad powers to the executive to amend laws undermining rights without parliamentary scrutiny, and excluding rights currently protected under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (HRW, 2018)
Amnesty has raised similar concerns:
While the Bill claims to be copying and pasting EU derived law into domestic law, it leaves one, crucial element behind on the cutting room floor – the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Charter plays an important role in our domestic rights protection architecture. Unlike the European Convention on Human Rights (which has nothing to do with the EU), the Charter only applies when EU law is in issue – like questions about data retention, or pension rights – but it provides stronger protection than the ECHR in those areas (judges can use it to ‘strike down’ primary legislation, like they did when the Brexit Minister David Davis MP used it himself in a privacy case recently!) It is a clear statement of fundamental rights which we all enjoy. If this is simply a cut and paste job as the government says, then why is the only thing they are leaving behind our rights protection?
The current government has had a long and at times tortuous relationship with human rights. It is surprising to compare a Conservative government after the war, led by Winston Churchill, who was instrumental in pushing for improved rights and which led to the current architecture of law on the subject, with the current government who wants to abolish the Human Rights Act and remove the Charter as well.
The reasons are complex and sometimes hard to fathom. It is connected in part with a dislike of all things European. Europe is the cause of so many of our problems it is claimed and once Brexit is accomplished, we shall be free. According to Mrs. May, it prevents us deporting dangerous criminals which it doesn’t. We are unable to deport some people because of various treaties which prevent us sending people to a country where they are likely to be tortured. It overrides parliament they claim and so we need to do this to regain our sovereignty. It does not. But the myths, endlessly repeated by politicians and some parts of the media are widely believed.
We should be extremely concerned. The bill also contains what are known as ‘Henry VIII powers’ which enable ministers to by-pass parliament. Without the Charter in place, which underpins human rights law, the government risks getting clogged up in a series of legal cases. Fundamental protections can easily be removed almost on a whim.
* Amnesty has no position on Brexit itself
If you live in the Salisbury area and want to become involved in human rights activities, you would be most welcome. Keep and eye on this site or on Facebook or Twitter – salisburyai – and come along to an event and make yourself known. Or contact us via Facebook. It is free to join the local group.