Brexit puts human rights ‘at risk’ in Northern Ireland

Brexit poses inherent risks to the enjoyment of existing human rights in Northern Ireland, according to a new report published by the Human Rights Consortium.

The RIGHTS AT RISK – Brexit, Human Rights and Northern Ireland report is the product of extensive research by the Consortium with its members and civil society groups across Northern Ireland over the last 12 months.

It outlines the breadth of the protections enjoyed by individuals in Northern Ireland through current EU membership, how those protections are intimately linked to the Good Friday Agreement and why those rights are currently at risk within the Brexit process.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Consortium director Kevin Hanratty said: “There is a clear link between the Northern Ireland peace process and membership of the European Union.

“EU membership was the assumed context and backdrop for a peace agreement 20 years ago. It also provided an important legislative scaffold that allowed the institutions of governance of the new peace agreement to function effectively and act in accordance with a range of important human rights standards. Following the referendum result it was clear that this existing tapestry of rights may be at risk due to the significant constitutional upheaval that Brexit represents.

“Our research highlights the true extent of the influence of the EU in protecting human rights in Northern Ireland, including the fact that the EU has often helped overcome the local political restrictions of divisions in the Assembly and harmonised rights standards upwards. Our contact with civil society groups throughout the course of this research has unveiled deep-seated anxiety across Northern Ireland about what Brexit will represent for human rights and other aspects of life locally.

“Unfortunately it is also clear from our research that while many significant commitments have been made to protect the peace process, the Good Friday Agreement and human rights during the Brexit process there has been little evidence of practical delivery to date on those commitments.”