This week, the House of Commons debated whether the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights should remain part of UK law, along with all other ‘retained’ EU legislation, post Brexit.
Addressing fellow MPs, Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney General, whose defence of human rights and the rule of law has become emblematic of the crucial role of liberal voices being heard in the debate on Brexit, caused some stir.
The idea of human rights makes some Honorary Members ‘choke over their corn flakes’, he argued.
‘I am worried that, in the course of this debate on Brexit and our departure from the European Union, in this massive upheaval of venom about the EU that I have experienced personally in the past week, which seems to have no relation to reality at all and troubles me very much, we seem to be at risk of losing sight of these aspects of real progress within our society as a result of our EU membership. They are overlooked’.
Later on that evening, the government voted down an amendment put forward by Labour, that would have retained the Charter as part of UK law. The amendment failed, but only by 10 votes.
‘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’, commented Liberty’s Corey Stoughton.
Crucially, it transpired that the Government had backed down, faced with possible possible defeat over amendments tabled by Dominic Grieve, intended to maintain the scope of the EU charter on fundamental rights. As the Guardian’s Peter Walker reported, the government was willing to work with Grieve to see how rights under the charter could be kept after Brexit, and would introduce its own amendment to this effect later in the bill’s passage.
Peter later explained in more detail on Twitter:
So, the fight to save the Charter is still on.
‘We must keep the pressure on the Government’, reacted Liberty, ‘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’.
Liberty submitted evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into the Human Rights implications of the EU Withdrawal Bill, claiming that the non-retention of the Charter would have serious consequences for the protection of human rights after Brexit.
As part of our ongoing collaboration with Liberty, we are pleased to reproduce the evidence submission here.