PM Boris Johnson's Brexit Deal: What Does It Mean For Rights?

The New Brexit Deal: What Does It Mean For Rights?

PM Boris has secured a new Brexit deal with the European Union at the eleventh hour. 

MPs are sitting in the House of Commons on Saturday (19 October), for the first time in 35 years, to vote on it. 

Labour has ruled out backing the deal, with leader Jeremy Corbyn calling it a “race to the bottom on rights and protections”.

So, what does this latest deal mean for workers and human rights more broadly? RightsInfo explains. 

Workers’ Rights, Social And Environmental Protections

PM Johnson’s new deal means that the UK would no longer be legally-bound to EU regulations around worker’s rights and social and environmental protections after it leaves the union. 

These regulations include things such as:

  • The working time directive, limiting the number of hours people can work a week
  • Requirements for workers doing the same jobs to be paid equally.
  • Caps on the amounts of particular pollutants that can be in the air

May’s withdrawal agreement, a legally-binding document, previously contained references to maintaining these so-called “level playing field” commitments after exiting the EU. 

In Johnson’s deal, these references are moved from the withdrawal agreement to the non-legally binding “political declaration”, which sets out future ambitions for a future UK-EU relationship. 

Some fear this means future UK governments could lower standards on workers’ rights and social and environmental protections in a bid to gain a competitive edge on the EU.

But Downing Street has pledged that high standards of rights and protections will be maintained post-Brexit. 

No More UK-Wide backstop

The biggest difference between the deals is that PM Johnson’s gets rid of the UK-wide backstop, an insurance plan included in May’s deal to prevent a need for a hard border on the island on Ireland if the UK fails to negotiate a trade deal with Europe by 31 December 2020.

A hard border could have severe implications for human rights, disrupting the fragile peace that has existed in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement was signed two decades ago. 

May’s deal would have kept the whole of the UK in a customs union in the event that the negotiations on a future trade deal fail to bear fruit. 

Johnson’s deal replaces this with a Northern Ireland-only solution – creating a customs and regulatory border along the Irish sea. 

Both options would appear to prevent the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland, avoiding the associated human rights concerns.

EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

Exactly the same as Theresa May’s deal, Boris Johnson’s would mean that we will no longer be subject to the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights after leaving the union.

This charter repeats the human rights included in the European Convention on Human Rights – which is a completely separate framework to the charter, and which the UK will continue to retain following Brexit – but adds a number of additional protections, including:

  • the right to fair working conditions;
  • protections against certain unjustified dismissal and discrimination issues;
  • minimum paid holiday;
  • regulations on working hours;
  • regulations on equal pay

Freedom Of Movement 

Much the same as Theresa May’s deal, the new withdrawal agreement will also mean an end to the right to freedom of movement among EU citizens within Europe after the transition period ends on 31 December 2020 – unless this is extended. 

UK citizens in the EU, and EU citizens in the UK, will keep their residency and social security rights after Brexit.

Freedom of movement rules will continue to apply during the two-year transition period, after which it will come to an end. This means UK nationals will be able to live and work in the EU, and EU nationals will be able to live and work in the UK for two more years.

Anyone staying in the same country for five years will be allowed to apply for permanent residence.

Featured Image Credit: Flickr.

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About the Author

Aaron Walawalkar

News and Digital Editor
Aaron is an NCTJ-accredited multimedia journalist focussing on human rights. His extensive reporting on rough sleeping in east London has been nominated for multiple awards. He has worked for regional and national newspapers and produced illustrations, infographics and videos for humanitarian organisation RedR UK. View all posts by Aaron Walawalkar.
The New Brexit Deal: What Does It Mean For Rights?
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