Brexit: rights, risks and responsibilities

UK Policy Feb 27, 2017 Add a comment

The Jimmy Reid Foundation (JRF) has no view or policy on Brexit, settled or otherwise, because we do not take such positions. We are able, however, to form views and analysis on the particular ramifications of the type of likely Brexit with regard to Human Rights which include workers’ rights.   In this meeting, Brexit: rights, risks and responsibilities: What’s at stake for human rights in Scotland? organised in conjunction with the Scottish Human Rights Commission, we sought to share information and give supporters the opportunity to speak out and speak up about their concerns over Brexit, the process and the impact in Scotland.  JRF received 118 registrations although only 42 people attended on the night.  

The meeting was designed to share information on rights, on strategy, on action and on specific issues arising from Brexit including workers rights, equality, the environment and if rights could be better protected through a ‘Scottish Bill of Rights’.  The meeting heard a series of interesting presentations:

  1. Mapping the work of the First Minister’s Standing Council on Europe, reporting on the three meetings held so far on human rights and the STUC’s ambitions for saving as well as extending workers rights;
  2. Making clear that enforceable economic and social rights are primarily sourced via the EU and the quite separate Council of Europe Treaty ‘The European Convention on Human Rights’ gives everyone equal rights including the right to protest, the right to form an opinion and the right to join a trade union;
  3. Defining the limits of EU law in the UK eg it cannot set a minimum wage, and the scope of EU law eg it adopts a broad definition of health and safety which includes the Working Time Directive;
  4. Informing us of the likely impact on the environment by withdrawing from the EU framework;
  5. Arguing that Brexit creates uncertainly and could become a distraction so our focus must be directed at what we do have control over and currently, there are a number of opportunities to extend workers rights in Scotland such as the development of a ‘Business and Human Rights National Action Plan for Scotland’.
  6. Civil society in Scotland has been working collaboratively with similar organisations across Europe to achieve reform in the way the EU operates so that it serves the people better, and it has no intention of withdrawing solidarity from a movement that still needs to thrive if it is to achieve social justice for all.

We are grateful to Muriel Robison for producing  a briefing ‘Brexit and Equality Law’ for  delegates which is a revamp of her SULNE paper (see below for more info) and arranged around the theme of rights, risks and responsibilities. Equality and Brexit

Tobias Lock also shared a paper which he co-wrote ‘Brexit and the British Bill of Rights’ which is available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers2.cfm?abstract_id=2913566

The discussion and feedback from the audience at the Q & A, achieved a degree of consensus: that human rights need to mean something for people in everyday places with examples of how they routinely sort real problems.  Otherwise human rights will remain unvalued and their weakening via Brexit may be tolerated apart from in expert circles.  The claims that people don’t like listening to experts was tackled with may people saying that those who talk up human rights speak from a theoretical rather than from practical experience and that is what causes the problem.  Explaining by example, detailing the actual benefits will result in broad and genuine support for human rights.

Further Resources

The right to form an opinion by receiving and imparting information is listed in the European Convention on Human Rights – Article 10.  In order to help you form opinions on the impact of Brexit on workers human rights, here are some useful resources:

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