Northern Ireland rights watchdogs establishing clarity on Brexit commitment

Northern Ireland rights watchdogs establishing clarity on Brexit commitment

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) have sought to provide clarity on the extent of the UK government’s commitment to protect certain equality and human rights after Brexit.

A new joint working paper from the two rights bodies seeks to establish what the commitment made under Article 2 of the Northern Ireland Protocol works in practice.

Geraldine McGahey, ECNI chief commissioner, said: “While the courts will be the ultimate decision maker, our joint working paper explores the potential scope of this important commitment by the UK government and will be a useful tool, not just for us, but for any individual or organisation considering what Article 2 is likely to mean in practice.

“This includes government officials, lawyers, public bodies, civil society organisations and anyone working in law or policy with an interest in this emerging area.

“As and when challenges come before the courts and rulings are handed down, we will update and amend our paper if necessary to ensure it remains relevant and accurate.

“With this information, the Commissions will be able to better hold the Government to account should potential breaches occur and provide advice and assistance to those individuals concerned about their post Brexit rights.”

Alyson Kilpatrick, NIHRC chief commissioner, said: “This report is the culmination of our joint oversight of the UK government’s commitment in Protocol Article 2. It is the product of many contributors; it reflects significant engagement and considerable investment of time and energy.

“Today’s launch is positive but is against a backdrop of real threat to human rights, not least by the proposed reform of the Human Rights Act. In this context Protocol Article 2 is an essential safeguard in the protection of human rights and equality for all the people of Northern Ireland.

“It is critical that Protocol Article 2 and its oversight mechanisms are not weakened, in law or in practice. The architecture and institutions of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Ireland/NI Protocol must remain strong so that the rights and safeguards envisaged really are upheld.

“We will continue to work together to ensure the protection of human rights and equality. We will, as prescribed by statute, be steadfast in holding the UK Government to account for compliance with their commitment.”

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