Charter of Fundamental Rights – Government Report

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 21st November 2017.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:30 pm, 21st November 2017

I beg to differ. The Solicitor General is right about the dates, but as we know, the charter is merely a codification of various general rights and principles. We have significant concerns about not incorporating it, notwithstanding the little list that the Minister is going to give us on 5 December, because with all due respect, a list prepared by a Minister does not have the same weight in a court of law as a codification that has been signed up to by a number of countries.

It is not just my view and that of Lady Hermon that there will be an issue for the Good Friday agreement. A briefing produced by none less than the Bingham Centre for the rule of law has raised the question of whether non-retention of the charter will impact on Northern Ireland. It has raised a series of questions, which I have just paraphrased, and I look forward to the Solicitor General answering them in more detail, rather than merely saying that there is not a problem. If I may say so, this illustrates the whole problem with the British Government’s approach to the unique situation in which Northern Ireland finds itself as a result a Brexit. There is a constant parrying, and saying, “There is not a problem, it can all be sorted out. It will all be fine.” This is what is causing us problems in the negotiations with the EU27, and particularly with the Republic of Ireland. Mere platitudes and assurances are not enough. We need some detail as to why removing the charter of fundamental rights from domestic law in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland will not pose a problem for the Good Friday agreement. However, I am sure that as we have the Solicitor General here, we will hear that detail later.