The House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee has written to Lord Chancellor David Gauke warning him of the real risk that Brexit poses to human rights protections in the United Kingdom.
The Committee has been taking evidence since March, as part of its wider work investigating the current likely impact that Brexit will have on the rights after Brexit. The Committee took evidence from lawyers, academics, representations of the devolved nations, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
The Committee’s concerns fall into four areas:
1) Diminution of rights protections in the United Kingdom
The Charter of Fundamental Rights, which will not apply in the UK after Brexit, currently protects certain rights which are not covered by the European Convention on Human Rights, for example the freestanding right to equality. Certain rights have greater protection under the Charter including the right to protection of personal data. The Charter also provides stronger legal remedies for individuals whose rights have been infringed.
2) Risk of a fragmented approach to rights protections across the UK
The devolved nations have different approaches to rights, and are subject to EU law in differing ways, for example the Equality Act 2010 does not extend to Northern Ireland and thus the Charter was seen to underpin rights protections; whereas in Scotland the Scottish Government is contemplating a Bill to provide “human rights leadership”, as well as seeking to ensure that rights in Scotland cannot be scaled back after Brexit.
3) The position of the UK judiciary on the Court of Justice of the European Union
The uncertainty for UK judges and their staff is undesirable, and the Committee has asked the Lord Chancellor for an update.
4) The UK’s future relationship, after Brexit, with the European Convention on Human Rights
Although the current Government is committed to maintaining the UK’s promotion and protection of human rights, no reassurances were provided for future governments.
Chair of the House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws said: “There is a very real risk that after Brexit the rights of UK citizens will be less protected than they are currently. We have taken significant evidence during this inquiry, and previously, and remain unconvinced by the Government’s response.
“UK lawyers have been leading contributors to EU human rights law. So it’s ironic that UK citizens post-Brexit will have diminished human rights protections, less access to remedies and face legal uncertainty. Worryingly, future ministers will also be able to change such rights without adequate Parliamentary scrutiny”.
Read the letter in full here