Government human rights watchdog calls for 'right to equality' law after Brexit
A Government watchdog has called for ministers to establish a new “constitutional right to equality” in order to protect rights under equality law after Brexit.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has also called for the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to remain in British law so citizens’ rights are not diluted following the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc, according to the Independent.
As it stands, member states are obliged to respect the Charter of Fundamental Rights when implementing EU law. When Britain takes European law on to the statute book following Brexit, such rules no longer apply, which some fear could lead to protections against discrimination being weakened.
The warning comes amid accusations the Government is mounting a “power-grab” by attempting to give ministers powers to change laws without Parliamentary scrutiny.
The ECHR’s suggestion would mean ministers passing new laws would have to inform Parliament of how they work with the constitutional right to equality. If ministers were unable to do this, they could be open to a judicial review.
EHRC chair David Isaac told The Independent: “The Government has said it will retain our domestic equality protections after Brexit, but as things stand, we will lose the safety net European law currently provides to ensure that our protections aren’t eroded.
“That’s why we want to see a new constitutional right to equality enshrined in the Withdrawal Bill.
“Such an approach would provide a homegrown safety net as ministers would be required to explain how new laws comply with the right to equality and Parliament would scrutinise this. In short, it would give us the added protection that we otherwise lose.”
A Department for Exiting the European Union spokesperson said: “The UK has a longstanding tradition of ensuring our rights and liberties are protected and we have made a clear commitment that all protections in equality legislation will continue to apply once the UK has left the EU.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights did not create any new rights. Instead it was intended to catalogue the rights that already existed in EU law – under the Withdrawal Bill this law is being converted into UK law on the point we exit the EU.”