Expert Comment: Did Brexit Save the Human Rights Act 1998?Monday 26 September 2016
In a piece for the Oxford Human Rights Hub, Lecturer in Public Law Dr Brian Christopher Jones looks at the fallout of Brexit and its impact on the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998.
Perhaps it is time to begin looking for silver linings, as opposed to fantastic judicial interventions. On this blog in March I wrote that a remain vote in the referendum could spell doom for the Human Rights Act 1998, as a fractured post-referendum Conservative party may attempt to mend itself by scrapping the HRA for a British Bill of Rights. After all, the introduction of such a proposal has been in successive Tory manifestos, and has been prominently voiced by leading Conservative MPs.
An April 2016 speech by Teresa May—then Home Secretary—suggested that regardless of the referendum result, the UK should exit the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Given that the ECHR is the backbone of the HRA 1998, exiting the ECHR would inherently threaten the legitimacy of the HRA, making imminent repeal a certainty. Yet on 23 June 2016 a shocking leave vote prevailed, and now Brits anxiously wait to see when Article 50 will be triggered. Even though the dust has not come close to settling—and in fact, many things are just beginning—it is not too early to ask whether or not Brexit saved the UK’s de facto bill of rights.