JUSTICE has joined with Liberty, Amnesty International UK and the Public Law Project to produce a briefing urging MPs to support a few amendments to prevent any rollback of rights in the EU (Withdrawal Bill). These amendments are already tabled and have cross-party support.
Leaving the EU need not – and should not – in ordinary people in the UK losing existing rights. Yet if this Bill were to pass un-amended, that would be the inevitable result.
These changes would do no more than ensure the Bill meets its stated aims. The Government has made clear that its intent is to provide a functioning statute book on exit day. This is the ‘general rule’ that ‘the same rules and laws will apply after exit as the day before.’
The Government’s position is that the Bill ‘does not aim to make major changes to policy’, with separate ‘primary legislation’ introduced later to ‘make such policy changes’ alongside the usual scrutiny.
But some parts of the Bill blur this distinction. And the decision to exempt fundamental rights from the Bill’s ‘general rule’ of maintaining the status quo reflects a major change to policy and a political judgment that has no place in this Bill. The future of the UK’s human rights framework should not be debated in the already-complicated context of the Brexit.
These amendments are not about opposing Brexit or thwarting the Repeal Bill. They are about remaining true to the Bill’s purpose and ensuring that neither the Bill nor the powers it creates erode fundamental rights.