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:
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- Informing us of the likely impact on the environment by withdrawing from the EU framework;
- 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’.
- 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.
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:
- House of Lords consideration of The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill http://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2017/february/lords-debates-european-union-notification-of-withdrawal-bill/
- The House of Lords is looking at the work of the EU, the implications of leaving and the exit process. https://www.parliament.uk/business/lords/work-of-the-house-of-lords/lords-brexit-round-up/
- Scottish Parliament’s ‘Equalities and Human Rights Committee’ (EHRiC) work programme for the period November 2016 to June 2017 has five areas of work which includes “2. Consider the impact of withdrawal from the European Union on equalities and human rights in Scotland (Brexit)”. http://www.parliament.scot/S5_Equal_Opps/General%20Documents/EHRiC_Work_Programme_Nov_2016_-_June_2017_Final.pdf and http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/100073.aspx
- Specific, relevant publications and articles building up interest eg from the TUC http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2017/02/workers-rights-beyond-brexit/
- The position papers developed by the Scottish Universities Legal Network on Europe- https://sulne.ac.uk/
- Development of a Scottish NAP on ‘Business and Human Rights’ by SHRC http://www.snaprights.info/action-areas/better-world/business-and-human-rights
- Correspondence from Equalities and Human Rights Committee of the Scottish Parliament on UK and Scottish NAP http://www.parliament.scot/S5_Equal_Opps/General%20Documents/20161011_Letter_to_Cab_Sec_on_Business_and_HR.pdf
- Scotland’s National Action Plan on Human Rights – introduced in 2013 with a strategy to make rights real http://www.scottishhumanrights.com/actionplan
- ‘List of Issues’ on UK published by UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights https://hrcscotland.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/the-un-asks-questions-of-scotland-and-the-uk/ and http://thirdforcenews.org.uk/tfn-news/tories-face-interrogation-on-human-rights-abuses
- Reid Foundation briefing paper ‘Economic and Social Rights are Human Rights’ http://reidfoundation.org/2015/08/economic-and-social-rights-are-human-rights-2/
by Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations, University of Bradford
We are in the midst of unprecedented political turmoil. Fortunately, this has allowed the bringing forward onto the mainstream political agenda of proposals concerning ideas for workers’ rights in the workplace that have long been marginalised and ridiculed.
Amongst these are proposals for worker directors, sectoral collective bargaining and extended union recognition. They have come from Theresa May, Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn. This ‘Quick Note’ examines the main proposals that have emerged over the summer on these areas. Using historical experience, it concludes that considerable fleshing out of the proposals is needed in order to avoid any potential pitfalls. The Quicknote is available here Workplace relations
Better Human Rights Together?
The election of 31 Conservatives to the Scottish Parliament creates opportunities for campaigners who oppose the UK Government’s plans to abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with a Bill of Rights. As a consequence, we may have some lively and better informed debate so that the public recognises the benefits of equal human rights protection and knows it is the Council of Europe that has responsibility for the European Convention on Human Rights, not the EU.
Whereas the Scottish Conservative election machine sought to distance itself from the UK government agenda and carve out a narrative of ‘just vote to keep the union’, that mantra will no longer survive as it is forced to decide on where Scottish Conservatives sit on the future of the Human Rights Act (HRA). Also, will the political ideology be consistent such as we all pay the same tax in the UK being translated into we should all be covered by the same human rights?
The consultation on whether we should withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), abolish the HRA and adopt a Bill of Rights, has been repeatedly delayed despite threats to publish it within 100 days of the UK government’s election in May 2015. The UK political rhetoric has been loud but the reality is that abolition is riddled with constitutional sinkholes, most notably that the HRA is part of the Scotland Act. Importantly the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament have repeatedly gone on record articulating why they support the equal enjoyment of the ECHR. Add to that the Good Friday Agreement, which is part of international law, included a promise to introduce a Bill of Rights in Northern Ireland which consecutive UK governments have failed to deliver. A UK Bill of Rights will not deliver on this obligation.
Commentators are suggesting a UK fudge may be proposed with an opt in for Scotland, and the other ‘nations’, to the new UK Bill of Rights. Therefore the Conservative government will have the dubious credit of enabling fresh constitutional divisions within the UK.
The EU Justice Committee of the House of Lords has just published its report on the Government’s proposal to introduce a UK Bill of Rights and says “the evidence they received makes ‘a forceful case’ for the Government to think again”. The Committee concludes that the ‘Bill will not depart significantly from the existing HRA and is likely to “affirm” all the in the ECHR [as Stated by the Secretary of State] in his evidence. Therefore it is unclear why a Bill of Rights is necessary.’
If the consultation is eventually published after the European referendum, the debate may be more complex: if we vote to stay in then our EU membership is conditional on us supporting the ECHR; if we vote to leave we must still abide by international law and that includes UN treaties that we have ratified on children’s rights, economic social and cultural rights, rights of disabled people, the Convention Against Torture etc, etc, etc.
Ultimately removing ourselves from the international framework for human rights protection will be a national embarrassment and will cause domestic disharmony. At a time when unity is the declared political purpose, the impact seems to be delivering the complete opposite. Maybe then it is an opportunity for the leader of the Scottish Conservatives to show leadership within the UK party and call a halt to any change at all.
Despite the mantra that tax cuts resolve economic concerns, writes Robin McAlpine, it’s only the rich who ever benefit – Scotsman article from today
Nationalising Scotland’s oil is not a priority – stopping multinationals and their pals in the Treasury fleecing us again in the renewables field as they did in oil is: Robin McAlpine’s article from today’s Scotsman
We need a new economic philosophy, one where people come together for the benefit of all members of society – Scotsman article from today
My Scotsman article – Political leaders and their parties have to be told to stop parroting what the plutocrats want them to say and start doing what the people who elected them told them to
Belatedly – my piece in The Scotsman the Scottish Government economic paper: The SNP’s plan, while recognising some of what not to do, seems to include repeating the mistakes that caused the economic crisis in the first place
The response to a protest against an anti-immigration, xenophobic political party has been as hard to believe as it has been distorted. The impact on Scottish politics is alarming.
Disclosure is telling facts; transparency is telling facts with the expectation that you will be held to account. Why does Better Together not seem to know the difference?