‘The House of Commons is wrong to seek to weaken the protection afforded by the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights’. That is the conclusion of Andrew Duff MEP, European Liberal Democrat spokesman on constitutional affairs, reacting to the Report of the European Scrutiny Committee published today (Wednesday), on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to the United Kingdom (HC 979).
In his statement, Duff says:
‘This enquiry is the first serious effort by the British Parliament to recognise the importance of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which was made binding under the terms of the Treaty of Lisbon. The Scrutiny Committee is absolutely right to conclude that the Charter is fully applicable in the UK despite the fact that Protocol 30 of the Treaty appears to make an exception of the UK (and Poland) on how the Charter should be used by the British (and Polish) courts. The fact is that, contrary to the claims of the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, the UK has no opt-out from the Charter.
‘On the other hand, Tory MPs are entirely wrong to be intimidated by the Charter, whose purpose is to offer a higher level of protection and a more modern standard of fundamental rights to EU citizens than that offered by the older European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Why the UK should not benefit from the full force and scope of the Charter is not explained in the Commons Report.
‘The eurosceptic bias of the EU Scrutiny Committee is all too clear. Its final proposal that the European Communities Act 1972 should be amended to disapply the Charter to the UK is preposterous. It would result in legal chaos and would breach the EU Treaty. Such a move would effectively pull the plug on British membership of the European Union.
‘Instead, at the next general revision of the EU Treaties, the UK and Poland should ditch Protocol 30 altogether. It is encouraging that the Czech Republic, which had applied eccentrically to join the Protocol, has now changed its mind.
‘The European Court of Justice is right to insist that the level of rights protection in every Member State of the Union must be at least as high as that of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The EU’s imminent accession to the ECHR will further secure the equal application of rights law to all tiers of European Union government. At a time when human rights are under attack elsewhere in Europe, Britain should be in the forefront of their promotion.’
Notes to Editors:
Andrew Duff, who gave evidence to Commons enquiry, was a member of the Convention which drafted the Charter and is the European Parliament’s long-standing rapporteur on its application.