MP Helen Hayes has told the House of Commons that her constituents did not vote for Brexit on any terms.
Her comment came as Parliament debated an amendment to the Brexit bill which would, if passed, remove the exclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights from retained EU law.
Rising to speak in support of amendment 46 which had been proposed by Chris Leslie (Lab/Co-op, Nottingham East) she told fellow MPs:
“The charter of fundamental rights is the most up to date, and therefore, in many respects, the most fit for purpose framework for the protection of human rights that UK citizens currently enjoy.
“It is not simply an amalgam of rights legislation that exists elsewhere in UK law, as the Government would have us believe.
“The charter of fundamental rights is the clearest articulation that we have of a 21st century commitment to human rights.
“It was developed painstakingly and collaboratively by all EU member states prior to its ratification in the Lisbon treaty, and it is therefore also a clear statement of our shared values and the aspects of our common humanity that bind us together and underpin the respect that we have for each other both within and across national borders.
“Article 1 enshrines human dignity as a right. “Few would disagree that human dignity is a right, but the charter of fundamental rights is the only place in legislation that enshrines that right, affording the most basic protection to people in receipt of social care or medical treatment, among many other circumstances.
“Article 8, the protection of personal data, is a new 21st century right, which provides a foundation of principle for the development of further specific legislation to protect the privacy of individuals and to regulate the use of data.
“Indeed, Mr Davis (David Davis the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union) made use of that provision when making his case against the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, and I would therefore hope he has no wish for this provision to be rescinded and for others to be denied this opportunity.
“Article 21(1) is of particular importance for LGBT people as it is the only provision in international law ratified by the UK that expressly protects people from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.
“It adds a layer of protection over and above the provisions contained in the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act, and that protection would therefore be diminished without it.
“Article 28, the right of collective bargaining and action, establishes the right of workers and employers to negotiate and conclude collective agreements and to take collective action to defend their interests, including strike action.
“Workers can also rely on the charter to challenge laws that breach fundamental rights. “For example, individuals working in the Sudanese embassy in the UK used the charter to successfully enforce their employment rights in the UK courts.
“There are countless examples such as this, and workers would lose such powers if the charter no longer applied in the UK.
“This Government have already proved their commitment to weakening workers’ rights in their pernicious Trade Union Act 2016, so I am afraid we can have no confidence that the protection of such rights can be taken on trust for the future.
“If the Government have their will, and the charter is not part of domestic law after exit day, the important additional rights it affords the British public will be lost.
“It is therefore simply not the case that this Bill is the simple cut-and-paste job the Government would have us believe it is.
“My constituents voted overwhelmingly—by more than 75 per cent —to remain in the EU. They did so for many reasons—some very practical, and others deeply principled—but in all of the many conversations I have had with my constituents since the referendum, the word they have used most often is ‘values’.
“My constituents voted to remain in the EU because the EU represents their values of tolerance, diversity and internationalism, and there is no clearer articulation of these values than the charter of fundamental rights.
“Many of my constituents are deeply distressed by the EU referendum result, and they have been looking to the Government for comfort and for a negotiated Brexit deal based on the values we share with the EU.
“Adopting the charter of fundamental rights into UK law would send a strong signal about a continued basis of shared values with the EU and a commitment to uphold the highest standards of human rights protections as the foundation for any future trade deal with the EU.”
The Dulwich and West Norwood MP gave way to Mark Francois (Cons, Rayleigh and Wickford) who said his constituents voted overwhelmingly, by 67 per cent, to leave. Was the Hon.lady seriously suggesting that the main reason most of her 75pc voted to remain was the charter of fundamental rights? he asked her.
Helen Hayes, responding, said:”That is not my contention; my contention is that the charter of fundamental rights is a very clear articulation of one of the many reasons why my constituents voted so overwhelmingly for remain, and I seek to represent their views today, as I am sure he seeks to represent the views of his constituents in this important debate.
“The charter is the most up-to-date human rights framework from which UK citizens benefit, and it is incomprehensible that the Government should not want to commit to the same high standard as the basis for all future human rights protections for UK citizens post-Brexit and as a basis for continuing to develop UK human rights law.
“That they will not do so is revealing and deeply concerning.
“My constituents did not vote for Brexit. But, above all, they did not vote for Brexit on any terms.
“It is essential that UK citizens can continue to rely on the highest standards of human rights protection post-Brexit. I will continue to fight for that, and I will vote for these amendments.”
Earlier Mr Leslie had told the House: “We were told that there were no fundamental changes in Government policy and that it was all very straightforward. “A number of the proposed changes are not to be transposed. “The Government have specifically chosen not to bring across the charter of fundamental rights.”
Source: TheyWorkForYou Charter of Fundamental Rights – Government Report European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons 21st November 2017.