EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

02 April 2014

The European Scrutiny Committee has today published its Report on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in the UK: a state of confusion (HC 979).

The application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (the EU term for human rights) in the UK has been the subject of considerable media, judicial and political interest since November last year, when the comments of a High Court Judge on its influence on UK law were reported in the press and debated in Parliament. This prompted the European Scrutiny Committee to launch an inquiry, which has now been completed.

The Committee took evidence from witnesses including the Justice Secretary and Lord Goldsmith, who played an important part in negotiating the Charter when it was originally drafted.

The Report aims to clarify a number of common misconceptions about the role of the Charter. Its key conclusions are:

  • that the Charter applies in the UK where the Government and public authorities are acting within the scope of EU law - there is no opt-out; 
  • that the Charter is directly effective in the UK, with supremacy over inconsistent national law, and can therefore be used both to interpret and enforce EU law, and so disapply national legislation based on EU law;
  • that the Charter does not include new rights, however, or give the EU new competences - but it will affect how pre-existing EU fundamental rights and principles are applied.

Chairman of the Committee, Bill Cash, says,

The Committee’s inquiry has revealed that the Charter does apply in the UK and will affect how existing fundamental rights are applied here.  The inference from the Secretary of State for Justice’s evidence is that he, like me, is not content with this, but it is not clear what the Government is going to do about it.  In my view it is essential that Ministers act to make clear beyond any doubt that the Charter will not in future apply in the UK, in particular through an amendment to the European Communities Act 1972.

The Committee divided a number of times on the Report; the formal minutes on pages 59 to 70 of the Report set out these proceedings.

Read the Report

Further information

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