Brexit plans lack ambition for equality and human rights

Published: 20 Mar 2017

Government Brexit plans are showing a lack of ambition for equality and human rights standards, Equality and Human Rights Commission Chair David Isaac has warned.

Publishing a 5 point plan on how Britain’s status as a world leader on equality and human rights can be maintained and strengthened after we leave the European Union, Mr Isaac has called for the government to set out its vision for a fairer Britain once we leave the EU and demonstrate how it will take a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a shared society and heal the divisions exposed during and since the referendum campaign.

The 5 point plan covers:

  • protecting parliamentary sovereignty over the UK’s equality and human rights legal framework
  • retaining the UK’s equality and human rights legal framework as we leave the European Union
  • ensuring the UK is a global leader on equality and human rights
  • protecting the UK’s equality and human rights infrastructure
  • promoting the UK as an open and fair place to live and do business

David Isaac said:

“We’ve had calls for all kinds of Brexit. A soft Brexit, a hard Brexit and a red, white and blue Brexit. No one is talking about a fair Brexit - one that will unite the country and lead us to a shared society based on fairness and mutual respect the Prime Minister has talked about.

“At any crossroads there are important decisions to be made. We can either set out the positive requirements to maintain our traditions of respect for equality and human rights and be a country that really does work for everyone, or we can miss this golden opportunity to demonstrate how post-Brexit Britain can create a fairer and more united Britain.”

Setting out what steps the government can take to create a fairer Britain once we leave the EU the action plan published today includes:

  • ruling out the use of so-called 'Henry VIII' powers to repeal or amend equality and human rights laws without Parliament’s approval
  • bringing into law every part of the Equality Act 2010 not yet implemented
  • introducing a constitutional right to equality that every law and government action can be tested against
  • every UK and devolved government trade deal must contain a human rights and democracy clause to help advance equality and human rights
  • ensuring equality organisations relying on EU funding, such as disabled people’s organisations, can keep running
  • enshrining all UN human rights treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, into UK and devolved government law and producing an action plan explaining how UN recommendations will be implemented.

Mr Isaac continued:

“Markets and trade deals are hugely important, but our vision for the future should not be narrowly economic. Both our economy and society will be stronger in a Britain where everyone is treated fairly and can achieve their potential. There is great deal of anxiety about leaving the European Union and the government should go further to unite the country by setting out a positive vision for a post-Brexit Britain. That vision must be founded on pride in our shared values of tolerance and mutual respect.”

“The plan we have launched today will, if implemented, help the government take steps to correct injustices and tackle unfairness to create a country that works for all.”

Ali Harris, Chief Executive Officer of the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF), said:

“EDF supports the call for a positive vision of an inclusive, outward-looking UK after we leave the EU, and a plan to turn the vision into reality.

“Equality and human rights are essential for a modern society where we can live and work successfully together, and where we can make the best of everyone’s contributions and talents. They are at the heart of the essential freedoms and protections that we all rely on and that are valued by the public.

“The steps proposed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission are important and highlight the key areas we should discuss and debate as part of the Brexit process.” 

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