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On 12 December 2017, the House of Lords is due to debate a question tabled by Lord Cashman (Labour) to ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their human rights priorities in the light of Brexit. This Lords Library briefing examines some of the overarching human rights issues relating to Brexit and the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.  It does not provide details on specific issues such as citizens’ rights or workers’ rights.

Through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the Government’s general approach is to convert EU law into domestic law so that existing legal rights and obligations would be the same after the UK has left the EU as they were immediately before Brexit. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is expressly excluded from this approach. The Government’s position is that the Charter did not create any new rights, and the substantive rights and principles underpinning it will be converted into domestic law, meaning that individuals’ substantive rights will not be affected. Others have argued that removing the Charter would have an effect on individuals’ rights and the way they could enforce them. With regard to the protection of equalities, the Government has undertaken to bring forward an amendment to the Bill to include a requirement for a ministerial statement to be produced for any Brexit-related primary or secondary legislation showing whether and how it is consistent with the Equality Act 2010. The Government has stated that the UK will remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) for the duration of this Parliament, but the human rights legal framework, including the Human Rights Act, may be reviewed once the process of leaving the EU is concluded.

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