Amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill protect Rights
Date: 8th May 2018
Category: Other human rights treaties and mechanisms
Today marks the final day of Report Stage in the House of Lords. Here, we summarise some of the key changes made to the Withdrawal Bill relating to rights protections. These changes are not set in stone, however, as the Bill will be returned to the House of Commons for MPs to consider the new amendments in the coming weeks.
Broadly, there are three areas where amendments highly relevant to children's rights have been made:
EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
Originally, the Withdrawal Bill provided that the UK would abandon the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, despite retaining the rest of EU law. Together, and many other organisations, strongly opposed this move arguing that it would result in a reduction in rights protection, particularly in respect of children's rights which are protected under Article 24.
The House of Lords debated these issues on 23rd April 2018, with Peers voting 316:245 in favour of retaining the Charter after Brexit.
- Read the full Lords debate on Amendment 15 here.
- Read Together's previous briefing on the importance of the Charter here.
General Principles of EU Law
Peers also voted in favour of preserving the "general principles of EU law". These are unwritten principles of EU law which contain important rights protections. Originally, the Withdrawal Bill recognised the existence of these rights, but stated that they could not be relied upon by individuals in court; there would be a right but no remedy. However, Peers voted 280:223 to reverse this, and ensure that individuals would be able to bring an action before the courts if rights contained within the "general principles" were violated.
- Read the full Lords debate on Amendment 19 here.
Equality and Employment Rights etc.
Peers also voted to give certain rights, such as employment and equality rights, extra protection from amendment or repeal by UK Ministers after Brexit. Under the amendment, changes to retained EU law in these areas will only be possible after enhanced scrutiny and if both Houses of Parliament agree. Preserving employment rights, such as maternity and parental leave and working time regulations, is particularly important for protecting the right to family life.
- Read the full Lords debate on Amendment 11 here.
These are welcome amendments but, as already mentioned, they are subject to further review when the Bill returns to the House of Commons in the next few weeks. This is where the real test for these amendments shall lie.