05:37, November 21 67 0 theguardian.com

2017-11-21 05:37:03
Dominic Grieve expects climbdown over post-Brexit human rights law

The former attorney general Dominic Grieve has said he is still expecting the government to back down over his attempts to force a vote to ensure human rights law is enshrined in the EU withdrawal bill.

The UK is currently a signatory to the charter of fundamental rights of the European Union, which sets out a range of rights for EU citizens. However, the charter is due to cease to apply after Brexit, and the EU withdrawal bill in its current form states: “The charter of fundamental rights is not part of domestic law on or after exit day.”

Grieve’s amendment would enshrine the charter of fundamental rights into UK law as part of the bill, set to be backed by Labour should it come to a vote. The amendment has also been signed by 10 rebel Conservative MPs, making it one of the key challenges to the bill, which is currently making its way through the Commons.

Government sources have told the Guardian that ministers will offer assurances that they will take another look at the issue from the dispatch box when the debate resumes on Tuesday afternoon.

Grieve said on Tuesday that the government “may well have to change course” over its decision not to include the charter.

“It may be that in light of what I’ve said today, some of the amendments may be put to the vote, but at the moment the whole purpose of this exercise is to get a dialogue so we can actually pay some attention to what we are doing to our laws as we leave the EU,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “And there are areas open to quite a lot of criticism and we can improve it.”

Though the government has argued that the charter gives no additional human rights protection to UK law, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has lobbied for the charter’s inclusion in UK law, saying it protects certain rights, including those specifically for older people and children.

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Grieve said the charter had been the basis for many challenges to the way EU law was applied, and could still function that way when EU law is transposed into UK law by the EU withdrawal bill.

“The charter is the governing document which sets out the principles under which EU law should be applied and as a consequence it’s had a very important part in developing our equality law, privacy law, particularly the right to data privacy, and also children’s rights,” he said.

“What we are asking for is for the government to consider maintaining the status quo until such time as parliament decides what it wants to do with such rights.”

Grieve has repeatedly stressed that his amendment is designed to bring about a change from the government to allow it to be withdrawn, rather than to push for a Commons defeat.

“I’ve always said the purpose is not to defeat the government; the purpose is to try to get the government to listen to what I think are very important points and actually have nothing to do with whether or not we are leaving the EU,” he said.

“The decision to leave the EU was taken when we triggered article 50. This is making sure the legal system works well.”

The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has confirmed his party will support the amendment should it go to a vote.

“Labour will not let the government use Brexit as an excuse to roll back fundamental rights,” Starmer said.

“The charter is vital for ensuring the rights of people living in the UK are protected, including the elderly and those from the LGBT community.

“And yet ministers want to drop it for the sake of appealing to the extreme voices in the Tory party. This week the government needs to change course or risk facing a defeat in the House of Commons.”