19 January 2018
The EU (Withdrawal) Bill was voted through parliament yesterday with a slim majority of 29 (324 to 295), still including a clause that drops the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights.
Jeremy Corbyn attempted to amend the Bill on Wednesday to remove the provision that states “The Charter of Fundamental Rights is not part of domestic law on or after exit day”. However, this amendment was voted down by 317 votes to 299.
The Charter for Fundamental Rights is broader than the European Convention on Human Rights, which is enacted in UK law through the Human Rights Act (HRA).
Earlier this week, civil rights bodies including the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Amnesty International, Liberty, the Fawcett Society and National Aids Trust warned in a letter published in The Observer that the Bill reneges on the government’s promise that human rights would be protected during the Brexit process.
“The charter protects rights important to all of us: including rights to dignity, protection of personal data and health; and protections for workers, women, children, and older people, LGBTI and disabled people,” the letter stated.
Of particular importance to the labour movement, the Charter provides additional protections for collective bargaining – one aspect of the law that Tory Minister Suella Fernandes described as “flabby” in a recent article for The Telegraph, where she complained that the Charter provides “extra layers of rights”.
Further, experts told the Guardian that the Charter does not operate in the same way as the HRA, because it exists outside of primary legislation.
Trevor Tayleur, Associate Professor at the University of Law, explained: “…there is a significant limitation to the protection afforded by the HRA because it does not override acts of parliament.
“In contrast, the protection afforded by the EU Charter of Fundamental rights is much stronger because where there is a conflict between basic rights contained in the charter and an act of the Westminster parliament, the charter will prevail over the act.”