Prof. Colin Harvey (QUB) & Daniel Holder (CAJ)
The Committee was reminded that, at its meeting on 22nd August, it had agreed to invite representatives from the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) and Queens’ University to discuss the impact of Brexit on Human Rights. It was reported that Prof. C. Harvey, representing Queen’s University Belfast, and Mr. D. Holder, representing the CAJ, were in attendance and they were admitted to the meeting and welcomed by the Chairperson.
Mr. Holder provided a presentation on the Rights by citizenship status in the post-Brexit context. He suggested that Irish citizens in Northern Ireland would retain some core EU citizens’ rights automatically, most notably rights to basic freedom of movement in the EU, in the same way any EU citizen in an existing third country (i.e. non-EU country) did. However, many subsidiary EU rights, opportunities and benefits would not be automatically retained after Brexit and would require a specific arrangements, such as the European Health Insurance Card and student fees.
He summarised the impact of Brexit on the Good Friday Agreement and highlighted the illustrative table which showed the current two categories of citizenship status in NI, which would become more complex after Brexit.
He stated that the EU Settlement Scheme depended on which deal was agreed upon and explained further the legalities and contradicting elements of the situation of Irish Citizens and the impact of the Settlement Scheme.
He outlined the effect of the EU-UK Joint
Report (Phase 1 Agreement)
published in December 2017 in relation to the human rights of NI-born Irish citizens and suggested that the Phase II negotiations, that were to examine the ‘arrangements required’ to ensure that Irish citizens residing in NI were able to continue to be able to ‘exercise’ and have ‘access to’ their EU rights, opportunities and benefits, had not been taken forward.
He summarised the impending changes to the Associated Reciprocal “Rights” of the Common Travel Area and highlighted the implications of current and future border checks that had the potential to discriminate against citizens.
He concluded with an illustration of a table which showed 13 categories of citizenship status’ in NI, post Brexit, and outlined the impact on access to work, public services, benefits, freedom of movement in the EU and EU rights.
Prof. Harvey advised that Brexit Law NI was a collaborative Economic and Social Research Council funded research project between the Law Schools of Queen’s University Belfast and the Ulster University and the Committee on the Administration of Justice to examine the constitutional, conflict transformation, human rights and equality consequences of Brexit. He stated that further information on the research could be found at www.brexitlawni.org. He suggested that the Council could endorse the annual Human Rights Day which was taking place on 10th December.
He advised that, in relation to a ‘no deal’ Brexit, the evidence suggested that changes to Human Rights Law, post Brexit, would have serious consequences for everyone. He suggested that there were a number of international, regional and domestic human rights standards which were not going to disappear, post Brexit, however there were concerns with the incorporation of those standards in to domestic law. He explained his concerns in relation to the Governments agenda for Human Rights and the intention to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights.
He advised that EU law was fundamentally important to the protection of human rights standards in relation to the following issues:
· Workers’ rights;
· Environmental protection;
· Free movement rights;
· Socio-economic rights
· Rights of children;
· Data protection;
· Gender identity;
· Gender equal;
· Sexual orientation;
· Disability rights
· Victims’ rights; and
· Consumer protection
He stated that the EU Law also had more robust mechanisms in place for enforcing rights in these areas.
He suggested that, if Brexit must proceed, it would be more advantageous to leave the EU with a deal and a protocol to assist with the implementation and protection of the human rights issues identified.
During questions from Members, the representatives expanded on the ramifications of the EU settlement scheme, freedom of movement, the implementation of the Bill of Rights, legal complications of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, discrimination, and the potential for the dissemination of human rights.
The Chairperson thanked the representatives for attending and they retired from the meeting and the Committee noted the information which had been provided.