Victory is in sight in the battle to protect our rights after Brexit

Posted by Corey Stoughton on 22 November 2017

Our analysis of the Government's near-defeat on rights at last night's debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The battle to bring our rights home after Brexit didn’t end last night – but the Government’s near loss on two key amendments shows victory is in sight.

Tell your MP to back the People's Clause

Ministers claim the Withdrawal Bill is a copy-and-paste exercise to ensure legal continuity after exit day. It brings home every EU law in one fell swoop – leaving it to later Acts of Parliament to decide, with proper debate, what we want to toss and what we’ll keep.

Every EU law, that is, except legal protections for our fundamental rights. The Government has singled out the Charter of Fundamental Rights as the one thing they won’t incorporate.

And the Bill takes away our ability to defend important equality, privacy and fair process rights protected by both the Charter and the “general principles” of EU law in UK courts.

This is entirely at odds with what the Government says the Withdrawal Bill is designed to do. It’s hard to see it as anything other than a political agenda to use Brexit as an excuse to take away our hard-won rights.

Begging for time

Last night, MPs debated two cross-party amendments – changes to the Bill that would challenge this glaring anomaly and make sure our rights protections were treated just like the rest of EU law and preserved in a post-Brexit world.

On one of those amendments – dealing with the “general principles” – the Government promised to come up with an amendment of its own to correct the problem.

On the other – one calling for the Charter of Fundamental Rights to be brought home to UK law – the Government begged for more time to come up with a report assessing the impact of its loss.

The amendment’s Tory supporters agreed to hold off on a final vote until the next stage of debate.

Closing in

Labour were less patient with the Government’s steps towards a climbdown. They pushed their own frontbenchers’ amendment to keep the Charter to a vote. That amendment failed – but by just 10 votes.

Many believed any amendment to the Withdrawal Bill with Jeremy Corbyn or Keir Starmer’s name on it wouldn’t come within 100 yards of passing.

The fact this one came so close at this stage, even without the cross-party support the Charter has mustered, heaps yet more pressure on the Government to abandon its anti-rights agenda.

The next steps are critical. We must keep the pressure on the Government – and on the Tory “scrutineers” who have been pressing their party leaders to respect the rule of law, remain faithful to the Bill’s purpose and keep our rights intact.

We cannot and will not be bought off by a report or a lip-service amendment that falls short of bringing all our rights home after Brexit.

Now’s the time to keep the pressure on the Government. Play your part by backing the People’s Clause.

Corey Stoughton Liberty

Corey Stoughton

Advocacy Director