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Fundamental Rights

Volume 635: debated on Thursday 1 February 2018

12. What assessment the Government have made of the potential effect of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on the protection of fundamental rights. (903676)

16. What assessment the Government have made of the potential effect of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on the protection of fundamental rights. (903680)

The “Right by Right” memorandum clarifies the way in which human rights will continue to be protected in domestic law after the UK has exited the EU. Under both the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and existing domestic law, all substantive rights reaffirmed in the charter of fundamental rights will continue to be protected after exit. The Government’s assessment is that, in itself, not incorporating the charter in UK law should not affect the substantive rights from which people in the UK already benefit.

The paper leaked to BuzzFeed reportedly suggests that

“deregulating in areas such as the environment, product standards, and employment law”

could provide an opportunity for the UK. Is that part of the Government’s economic strategy?

The Government have repeated again and again our commitment to ensuring that we improve the environment and leave it in a better condition for the next generation, and our commitments on workers’ rights have also been repeated time and again.

The Brexit Secretary has labelled employment regulations as “crippling”, the Foreign Secretary has described them as “back-breaking”, and the International Trade Secretary has said that rules on maximum working hours are a “burden”. Will the Minister tell us why the Government are so readily prepared to undermine the promise to enhance workers’ rights as we leave the EU?

The Government’s policy has been set out time and again. We will ensure not only that workers’ rights are preserved, but that they are enhanced and keep pace with the new working environment.

During our consideration of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill in Committee, concerns were repeatedly raised that critical environmental rights and protections could be cast aside as we exit the EU. If the Government are serious about raising, not lowering, those rights and protections after Brexit, why have they so far failed to introduce an ambitious new environment Bill, but are instead, as we now know from the leaked papers, commissioning analysis suggesting that Brexit could present an opportunity to deregulate in such areas?

The purpose of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is to preserve the effect of EU law on the day after exit day, so far as that is possible. Its purpose is to provide certainty, continuity and control rather than policy changes. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has laid out his policy clearly, and I look forward to his presenting a Bill in due course.