DON'T ROLL BACK FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS BY SCRAPPING THE EU CHARTER, SAYS ALLIANCE OF 80 NGO's

As the EU Charter of Fundamental rights goes up for debate on day 3 of Committee Stage for the EU (Withdrawal) Bill on Tuesday 21 November, an Alliance of over 80 organisations from across civil society are calling on MPs to not scrap the Charter and rollback fundamental rights. 

The bill intends to create legal continuity on Brexit day by transposing EU laws, rules and regulations into the UK statute book. The Government explicitly promised in the bill’s explanatory notes that the legislation “does not aim to make major changes to policy”[1]. Rather, the transposition process is meant to be a copy-and-paste job, and it is on these grounds the government was justifying wide-ranging delegated powers. 

David Davis has been clear that while laws and regulations transposed over may be revisited in areas where policy changes are sought at a later date [2], these changes would not be made by the bill. 

However, campaigners are concerned that the Charter is being conspicuously excluded from this transposition process by Clause 5(4). Rather than legal continuity, the Charter will cease to be operable in UK domestic law post-Brexit. 

The Charter provides a clear framework for protecting fundamental rights such as privacy, equality, freedom of expression, and fair working conditions [3]. It also offers more protection than the European Charter on Human Rights (ECHR) in certain important areas, such as the right to a fair trial, including the right of access to a lawyer, the right to deportation hearings, the protection of personal data, same-sex marriage, and employment rights.

Dominic Grieve MP, the former Attorney General and one of the key critics of the bill from the Conservative benches has tabled an amendment that would see the Charter included in the transposition process. This amendment has drawn cross-party support [4]. 

Speaking on behalf of the Alliance, Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said: 

“Ministers claim the EU (Withdrawal) Bill is about certainty – yet they have unilaterally decided to abandon the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the crucial protections it gives us.
 
“If the Government wants to get on with a smooth and orderly transition, now is not the time for nakedly politicised moves and arguments over rights. MPs who believe in freedom, fairness and standing up for their constituents’ rights should vote to keep the Charter today.”

The Alliance represents over 80 organisations from across civil society that are calling for the Withdrawal Bill to be amended to ensure open and accountable lawmaking in the transposition process, and a maintaining of a high standards UK [5].

 

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] EU (Withdrawal) Bill explanatory notes https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2017-2019/0005/en/18005en.pdf

(10) The principal purpose of the Bill is to provide a functioning statute book on the day the UK leaves the EU. As a general rule, the same rules and laws will apply on the day after exit as on the day before. It will then be for Parliament and, where appropriate, the devolved legislatures to make any future changes. (p5)

(14) The Bill does not aim to make major changes to policy or establish new legal frameworks in the UK beyond those which are necessary to ensure the law continues to function properly from day one. The Government will introduce separate primary legislation to make such policy changes which will establish new legal frameworks. (p6)

[2] “This Bill itself is not the place for those substantive changes to the frameworks we inherit from the EU. We will have many more opportunities to debate those – both before and after we leave” - David Davis' opening statement at the second reading of the Repeal Bill

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/david-davis-opening-statement-at-the-second-reading-of-the-repeal-bill

[3]The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU brings together in a single document the fundamental rights protected in the EU. The Charter contains rights and freedoms under six titles: Dignity, Freedoms, Equality, Solidarity, Citizens' Rights, and Justice

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/fundamental-rights/charter/index_en.htm


[4] Amendment 8, tabled by Dominic Grieve:

Clause 5, page 3, line 20, leave out subsections (4) and (5). To allow the Charter of Fundamental rights to continue to apply domestically in the interpretation and application of retained EU law.

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2017-2019/0005/amend/euwithdrawal_rm_cwh_1116.pdf

[5] https://repealbill.org/about-us/


About the Alliance

The Repeal Bill Alliance comprises over 80 organisations from across civil society that are calling for the EU (Withdrawal) Bill to be amended to secure: open and accountable lawmaking in the transposition process; and to maintain a high standards UK.

For more information visit the Alliance’s website: https://repealbill.org/

Contact: Jane Thomas (The Alliance’s Coordinator) - jane@repealbill.org or 07957 240826

Malene Bratlie