Brexit will cut us loose from fundamental rights. Whatever wool Labour tries to pull over our eyes with clever wordplay, this is the project to which it is now weddedby Schona Jolly / May 1, 2019 / Leave a comment
The ironies keep coming thick and fast for Labour’s leadership and national executive committee, both determined to sidestep the pro-Remain sentiments of the vast majority of its membership, MEPs and MPs. Chief among them, perhaps, was the insistence this week by shadow minister Rebecca Long-Bailey that Labour was engaged in “fantastic discussions” with the government on the issue of workers’ rights. Barely had that sentence been uttered, when reports emerged that the Conservatives may be planning again to reconsider domestic commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights once the process of Brexit is concluded.
For many, Brexit has been explicitly a deregulation project from the outset. Astute observers might have noticed that the political declaration which was agreed with the EU in December, alongside the Withdrawal Agreement, noted that the UK would only agree “to respect the framework of the European Convention on Human Rights,” rather than the previous wording by which the UK was “committed” to it. Perhaps nothing should be read into this, except that the European Convention on Human Rights has long been a political football for the right of the Conservative party, loathed by the prime minister when she was home secretary, so much so that in April 2016, she explicitly called for Britain to leave its jurisdiction. The government fiercely resisted the incorporation of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms during the passage of the EU (Withdrawal Act) 2018. That means that overnight, some substantive rights will be stripped away. In addition, many workers’ rights, for example properly paid holidays or protection for agency workers, will be vulnerable in any future parliament. Dominic Raab, too, was vocal in his pre-referendum demands to deregulate, describing EU employment regulations as a “straitjacket.”
One might generously describe the lay of a post-Brexit rights landscape as one favouring regression, or at least the status quo, rather than progression. More realistically, the reality of Brexit is a bonfire of individual rights which begins on exit day. Any re-drafted political declaration, filled with aspirational text, might simply be torn up in the future. Individual rights now protected by the supranational safety net of the EU, through legislation and through the Court of Justice, will be lost to the absolutism of parliamentary sovereignty which can bind no future parliament. The…