This paper aims to assess the consequences of the vote of 23 June 2016 to leave the European Union (EU) for the protection of human rights in the UK. It commences as a stock-taking exercise and then outlines how withdrawal from the EU (‘Brexit’) will mark an important step towards a dis-entrenchment of human rights in the UK’s constitutional order opening the door to far-reaching and potentially regressive human rights reform. It is argued that Brexit is likely to result in an overall weakening of fundamental rights protection in the UK in substantive terms with the loss of rights protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Charter of CFR) and their unrealised potential; as well as in procedural terms with a loss of remedies against human rights infringements originating both in domestic and in EU law. This reduction in the level of protection is not compensated for by a possibly continuing indirect influence of EU fundamental rights standards on domestic protections – through continued adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and from future cooperation between the EU and the UK, in particular in the field of data protection. In light of parallel efforts to substitute the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) for a British Bill of Rights (BBR) – likely to result in further constitutional instability and confusion, in particular if the devolved parts of the UK engage in efforts to counterbalance – the article concludes that by mapping out some of the options for human rights reform open in light of Brexit. While this paper is mainly concerned with the human rights implications of leaving the EU, it also provides a more general lesson on how the disentanglement of UK law from its EU influences is likely to unfold.

Transitional Justice Institute CAJ