Brexit: Plans lack ambition for equality and human rights

David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission

David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission

UK government Brexit plans demonstrate a lack of ambition for equality and human rights standards, one human rights chief 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, David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission has called for the government to set out its vision for a fairer Britain after Brexit and to 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, Healing the divisions: A positive vision for equality and human rights in Britain, 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

Mr 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 added: “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.”