Brexit poses a serious risk to the human rights of UK citizens. That’s according to the House of Lords European Union Justice Sub-Committee.
The sub-committee wrote a letter of warning to Lord Chancellor David Gauke of the ‘real risk that Brexit poses to human rights protections in the United Kingdom’.
The Committee has been taking evidence since March. The evidence forms 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, representatives of the devolved nations, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
‘There is a very real risk that after Brexit the rights of UK citizens will be less protected than they are currently,’ said Chair of the House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws.
‘We have taken significant evidence during this inquiry, and previously, and remain unconvinced by the Government’s response.’
The Baroness said it was ironic that UK lawyers put some much work into developing EU human rights laws.
‘UK lawyers have been leading contributors to EU human rights law,’ she said.
‘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.’
The Committee’s concerns
The committee listed some of its major concerns in its letter to Lord Chancellor Gauke.
One of which is that ‘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’.
It said that ‘certain rights have greater protection under the Charter’.
A newly published government report reinforced that point further. The Equality and Human Rights Commission on equalities and human rights released the report on Thursday (28 June).
Called ‘Is Britain Fairer? The state of equality and human rights 2018’ it found Brexit has ‘left many people feeling uncertain’.
‘This has resulted in a change in our political landscape and has created divisions that we have not seen for decades,’ the report read.
Brexit and LGBTI people
Earlier this year, Gay Star News, released its updated report looking at the impact of Brexit on LGBTI people called LGBTI & THE EU: The LGBTI Case for a People’s Vote
Much like the Commission and Committee’s concerns, the GSN report found that without a UK constitution or EU protection to guarantee LGBTI rights, the community could face discrimination and persecution.
‘The Charter of Fundamental Rights is a stunning reaffirmation that rights will be protected against governments who would not otherwise give them, or wish to take them away,’ wrote Lord Michael Cashman in the report.
Cashman described Brexit as an ‘act of incredible national negligence’.
‘It is the gravest crisis this country has faced since 1940.’
The Committee’s other concerns
The Committee listed three other major concerns it had over human rights and Brexit.
One included the 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,’ the Committee said.
The Committee also found the position of the UK judiciary on the Court of Justice of the European Union created uncertainty for UK judges and their staff.
Finally it questioned 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,’ the Committee wrote.