What does leaving the EU mean for human rights?

28 June 2016

This briefing is largely based on the briefing by the House of Commons Library ‘EU referendum: impact of an EU exit in key UK policy areas’. The opinions and judgements it contains are theirs. We expect to review and add to these articles periodically as events develop.

Once the UK has left the EU we will no longer have to follow any EU laws on human rights.

The main piece of EU human rights law is the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Like all EU human rights laws this Charter only applies in situations where the EU has authority. It has mostly been drawn from other international human rights laws which the UK is already signed up to.

Any UK legislation that conflicts with the parts of the Charter which relate to directly enforceable individual rights must be disapplied in UK courts. That said, the UK is signed up to a Protocol which limits some of the effects of the EU’s Charter on social rights.

This Charter is separate to the European Convention on Human Rights which has been debated a lot in the UK, and which was established before the EU was set up.

Anyone who feels that UK laws breach their human rights will still be able to complain to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the UK will still have to abide by these rules. The UK also has its own Human Rights Act which is meant to ensure that UK legislation and the actions of public bodies are consistent with the Convention on Human Rights.

For more information about how leaving the EU will affect human rights in the UK, read our separate briefing.

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