Press Release- Brexit Legal Action about Safeguarding Rights and Peace Process
05 October 2016
The Human Rights Consortium is one of the current applicants in a Northern Ireland based Judicial Review of the Brexit process. The Consortium have outlined that the case, which is being heard in the Belfast High Court at present, is focussed on upholding existing human rights protections and the elements of the Northern Ireland peace process currently underpinned by EU membership.
Director of the Consortium Kevin Hanratty stated, “The Consortium did not take a position on whether the UK should withdraw from the EU during the referendum process and we maintain that position to this day. In advance of the referendum we did however highlight the very real risk that existed of entering into a process to withdraw from the EU without ensuring that important human rights protections, emanating from our membership of that Union, are first safeguarded. Unfortunately, to date there is little evidence post referendum that the UK Government has taken due account of those risks in their approach to Brexit.
We have therefore become involved as applicants in the Judicial Review because we believe that if the UK Government are determined to proceed with withdrawing the UK from the EU, that this should only be allowed to happen in a manner that is consistent with the current constitutional and legal protections of Northern Ireland and the wider UK. Essentially we are deeply concerned that the multitude of human rights and equality protections that people in Northern Ireland currently have access to by virtue of the UK’s membership of the EU will be lost.
Rights protections as varied as workers’ rights, health and safety standards, privacy laws and child protection safeguards are just a few of the wide range of rights that could be jeopardised if Article 50 is triggered without having a mechanism to uphold, replicate or replace those protections. Add to this the fact that EU protections are fundamental building blocks of a range of peace process institutions and safeguards in Northern Ireland and the notion of what is currently an unplanned Article 50 process in that regard becomes an even riskier prospect.
This legal action is about ensuring that if Brexit takes place, that it does so in a manner that upholds and is in keeping with our current legal protections and which will continue to ensure the protections of our peace process.
Triggering Article 50 without first ensuring the protection of the human rights and equality benefits we enjoy from our EU membership sets us on an irreversible two-year countdown to a situation where those protections are at significant risk of being permanently lost to the people of Northern Ireland. That is the constitutional equivalent of jumping off a cliff and hoping to arrange a safe landing on the way down. As an organisation founded on the objective of protecting and promoting human rights in Northern Ireland we believe that is an unacceptable risk to take.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
- The Human Rights Consortium is a coalition of over 160 civil society organisations from across Northern Ireland representing a diverse range of communities, sectors and issues but which are united in an ongoing mission to work towards a human rights based society with a strong and inclusive Bill of Rights.
- As part of that work we seek to inform our members, civil society and the wider public about the application and protection of human rights across our society with a view to enhancing public understanding, support and utilisation of those rights.
- The European Union has developed a range of additional human rights protections that assist in enhancing rights protections for the UK, including the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and other protections. For further info see the following HRC briefing document – http://www.humanrightsconsortium.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/The-EU-Referendum-and-Human-Rights-A-Briefing-Note.pdf
The Consortium can be contacted on 02890 313780 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org