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Great Repeal Bill: gaping holes where our rights should be

The civil liberties campaign organisation Liberty analysed of the Government’s white paper on the Great Repeal Bill, concluding that it "risks leaving UK residents with far fewer rights than they currently have".

Under the proposals set out in the white paper published on 30 March, the Great Repeal Bill – which should be used solely to incorporate and provide a foundation for EU laws – could be used by Ministers to remove UK citizens’ human rights.

It contains no formal commitment to safeguard rights protections stemming from the UK’s EU membership – and includes a refusal to incorporate those vital protections held under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

The Government also envisages the widespread use of ‘Henry VIII clauses’ which could amend human rights laws without proper scrutiny from MPs.

Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said: “This white paper has gaping holes where our rights should be. Where’s the guarantee to protect our EU rights so we don’t end up worse off than our neighbours across the Channel? Where’s the guarantee of proper democratic scrutiny? How can the Government trumpet a ‘stronger, fairer Britain’ if its approach means we’ll end up with fewer rights than we have now? We urgently need an independent audit of the human rights protections the public stand to lose – and then a formal commitment that every one of them will be safeguarded.”

Liberty is calling on the Government to commit to the following, missing from the Great Repeal Bill white paper:

  1. Urgently conduct a comprehensive independent audit of all human rights law originating from the UK’s EU membership and publish its results.
  2. Formally commit to protecting all EU human rights law through domestic legislation. The Great Repeal Bill must include a ‘non-retrogression clause’, preventing the Bill and any secondary legislation stemming from it being used to weaken current protections.
  3. Guarantee not to use sweeping ‘Henry VIII’ powers to alter substantive policy areas of EU law – especially human rights law.
  4. Reverse its decision not to incorporate the rights given to UK citizens by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights into domestic law.
  5. Reconsider its decision not to publish a draft Great Repeal Bill, and give sufficient time for a full debate in Parliament and among the wider public.
  6. Publish a schedule of all primary legislation that will accompany the Great Repeal Bill.
  7. Protect seminal cases of the Court of Justice of the EU through primary legislation and formally provide that UK courts “may have regard to” its future case law. 

Liberty is launching a major programme of research to make sure UK residents leave the EU with their rights intact, focusing on immigration, police and security cooperation and privacy.

Contact for Liberty: 020 7378 3656 / 07973 831 128 / pressoffice@liberty-human-rights.org.uk

Sustain is also active on Brexit issues and the Great Repeal Bill, see: www.sustainweb.org/brexit for further details

Published 30 Mar 2017

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