Read, Debate: Engage.

UK ditches the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

October 05th, 2020
topic:Human Rights
by:Federica Tedeschi
located in:United Kingdom
tags:Boris Johnson, Brexit, ECHR

The UK has chosen not to incorporate the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights into domestic law, therefore threatening protections that help keep people safe in the United Kingdom.

The decision, which follows Conservative MPs’ vote against the Charter in 2018, as well as follow-up discussions during the Brexit negotiations in February 2019, has not been overturned during the eight rounds of UK-EU future relationship discussions which have taken place since the vote.

What does the EU Charter consist of and when did it become effective?

The legislation, which became legally binding with the coming into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1st December 2009, has brought into primary EU law a plethora of fundamental rights enjoyed by EU citizens and residents.

The document contains fifty articles with substantive rights and principles, covering areas like dignity, freedoms, equality, and solidarity. Also on the list are citizens’ rights and justice. To complete the Charter, there are four articles containing general provisions.

Particularly under threat when Brexit comes into force in January 2021, are all workers’ rights, healthcare and environmental and consumer protections, whose related articles fall under the category ‘solidarity’, the only category not to have a single equivalent in the European Convention on Human Right (ECHR). The ECHR is a 1953 international convention which protects the human rights of people in countries that belong to the Council of Europe, a different organisation to the EU.

Although the UK will still be signed up to the ECHR after January 2021*, citizens living in the United Kingdom will see some of their rights undermined, because of the difference between the two regulations.

“The government’s case was that including the Charter would be unnecessary duplication, since all the individual rights in it were replicated elsewhere. That was not quite true, some rights in the Charter are not in the ECHR”, stressed Scottish National party politician Tommy Shepperd during Brexit negotiations in 2019.

The EU Charter goes further than the ECHR, which is why the UK government’s decision results in limited domestic protections in certain areas.

As just 15 out of 50 articles (30%) have an equivalent protection in the ECHR, UK residents not only will see their rights in the workplace potentially ignored, but child labour could go unpunished, social security would no longer be guaranteed and access to healthcare could become problematic.

And what about the lack of both environmental and consumer protections? Not to mention the potential breach of equality paid for by the elderly, young, disabled, and cultural and/or religious minorities.

Also at risk is the protection of human dignity and the integrity of the person (Dignity) as well as asylum rights, along with the freedom to choose occupations and/or conduct a business (Freedom).

Personal data breach could become cause for concern after Brexit, and other areas of ‘freedoms’, such as marriage & family, assembly & association, and education, will be under threat.

While the Conservative party — or at least most of its representatives — believe that disposing of the EU Charter is an opportunity for the UK to shape its human rights standards, both the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats have raised concerns about the respect of human rights once Brexit comes into force.

Meanwhile, during round eight of the UK-EU future relationship talks in September of this year, talks were overshadowed by the introduction of the UK’s Internal Market Bill, which translates into a breach of international law from the Conservative government, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In fact, if passes as it is, the bill will limit the scope of EU state aid rules in the region, by allowing UK ministers not to apply the required checks on a number of goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The plan in the Internal Market Bill is to override parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement ratified in January and therefore will not ensure that Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic of Ireland remains open. And history suggests the likely risk of violence if a hard border returns to the Irish island.

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis publicly admitted the decision is a breach of international law but stressed that the moves are ‘very specific and limited’.

How is Boris Johnson planning to gain anything from such a decision?

He is possibly at ease with the idea that Britain will leave the transition period on December 31st without a trade deal in place with the EU.

Both the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost, countered Mr. Johnson’s views, and questioned the unsatisfactory state of the UK negotiations so far and the consequences of a potential no-deal Brexit. The disruption and economic damage brought by the latter would be far worse for Britain than it would be for Europe. Food shortages, for instance, would be on the list.

In August of this year, the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) released data showing that based on the farm-gate value of unprocessed food in 2019, the UK only supplied 55% of the food consumed in the country. Its leading foreign supplier of provisions, the EU, contributed by 26%, while Africa, Asia, North and South America each provided a 4% share of food consumed in the UK.

*In Britain, those human rights which fall under the ECHR, are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998

This article reports facts as of 27 September 2020.

Article written by:
Federica-Tedeschi
Federica Tedeschi
Author
United Kingdom
© Eu Debates
Special European Council. Ministers exchanged views on the draft conclusions for the special European Council meeting to be held in October.
Particularly under threat when Brexit comes into force in January 2021, are all workers’ rights, healthcare and environmental and consumer protections.
Although the UK will still be signed up to the ECHR after January 2021, citizens living in the United Kingdom will see some of their rights undermined, because of the difference between two regulations.