Human rights in the UK after Brexit


The result of the EU referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, and forthcoming withdrawal, carries obvious implications for the protection of rights and freedoms in this country.

As a cross party, non-party, domestic human rights campaigning organisation, Liberty did not take a position on the EU referendum, but we are committed to the protection of human rights in the UK after Brexit.

Strong rights protections will be crucial to the UK’s future, and we want to ensure that securing hard-won victories for rights in UK law is central to any Brexit settlement.


That’s why Liberty is carrying out detailed research into the implications of Brexit for human rights and civil liberties in the UK. Liberty’s work will have a particular focus on:

  • Upholding the rights of EU citizens in the UK
  • Ingraining human rights standards in asylum and immigration policy
  • Safeguarding employment rights and equality protection
  • Maintaining privacy and data protection standards
  • Protecting the rights of victims of crime


Liberty has already submitted a briefing to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ Brexit Inquiry, making a number of recommendations:

1. All existing EU-law rights protections must be safeguarded

The Government must ensure that all EU-law rights protections – including equality, labour law and privacy protections – are maintained through the proposed ‘Great Repeal Bill’.

This includes protections directly effective in UK law, judgments of the EU Court of Justice, and standards implemented through domestic regulations.

As we withdraw from the EU, important victories for human rights from which the UK has benefited during its membership must be retained, and given pride of place within our new settlement.

2. Protect the legal rights of EU citizens in the UK

EU nationals should not be treated as bargaining chips, nor should their rights be subject to negotiation nor made contingent upon the actions of other governments.

EU nationals already in the UK should be guaranteed the right to stay in the UK post-Brexit.

Commitments must also be made to protect the legal rights they already have, particularly access to healthcare and non-discriminatory access to employment and education.

3. Retain protections which form part of the Common European Asylum System

The EU Qualification Directive requires the UK to provide a form of international protection known as humanitarian protection to those fleeing indiscriminate violence, such as the war in Syria.

Other EU laws set minimum standards to ensure fairness and dignity for those seeking sanctuary in the UK. We must maintain these protections as fundamental to the UK’s response to the ongoing refugee crisis.

4. Commit to overcoming hate crime

The Government must take concerted action to monitor and curb the rise in hate crime and to ensure it is more effectively investigated and prosecuted.

Ministers must also give hate crime based on a person’s nationality or immigration status the same attention as other forms of hate crime, something that the Government’s Hate Crime Action Plan failed to do.


What position did Liberty take on the EU referendum?

As a cross party, non-party, domestic human rights campaigning organisation, Liberty did not take a position on the EU referendum.

Read Liberty’s blog ‘After the referendum, a commitment to our shared values must be what binds us together’.

Does Brexit mean withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights?

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is completely separate from the EU. The ECHR was drafted in the aftermath of the Second World War and adopted by the Council of Europe in 1950. It was incorporated into UK law through the Human Rights Act 1998. The Government has threatened to repeal the Human Rights Act and Liberty is campaigning against this proposal.

In fact, after Brexit, the European Convention, and the Human Rights Act which enshrines it in UK law, will be more important than ever. They will remain the most fundamental safeguard against abuses of human rights in the UK. We will keep campaigning to ensure that these vital tools are not taken away, whilst also working to protect the hard-won rights victories derived from EU law.