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NI’s equality laws must be protected in Brexit Bill

NI’s equality laws must be protected in Brexit Bill
Recommendations on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill

The Equality Commission has made recommendations to Government on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill to ensure that there will be no regression from the existing equality rights and the implementation of future equality protections in Northern Ireland, as the UK exits the European Union.

“It is important that the uncertainties created by the withdrawal process do not undermine or even reverse decades of progress on equality issues here” Dr. Evelyn Collins CBE said. “This is important, both as a matter of individual rights and protections, and as an essential foundation for our continuing development as a more equal and inclusive society.”

The Commission welcomes the UK Government’s commitment to ensuring that the protections afforded by existing equality laws, in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK, will continue to apply after the UK leaves the European Union.

Dr. Evelyn Collins CBE said. “Our recommendations reflect the particular context of Northern Ireland, including the commitments to equality enshrined in the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement. We are proposing that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill should include specific provisions to ensure there will be no regression from existing equality rights.

“We are also proposing that the Withdrawal Bill should ensure that future changes to EU equality law, and interpretations by the Court of Justice of the EU, continue to have effect in Northern Ireland. We also recommend changes to ensure that there are equivalent standards of equality protection between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland,” said Dr. Collins.

Another matter of concern for the Commission is that the wide-ranging powers proposed under the Withdrawal Bill, including as regards the devolved administration in Northern Ireland, do not have sufficient safeguards and levels of scrutiny.

“This process could mean that changes to equality laws could be made by the UK Government or Northern Ireland Ministers, with very limited opportunity for either Parliament or the Assembly to consider or amend them. We are proposing that the Bill is amended to prohibit the use of such delegated powers by Ministers to amend equality laws in Northern Ireland There must be sufficient safeguards in the Bill to ensure effective and full scrutiny of any proposals to change equality law in Northern Ireland”, concluded Dr. Collins.

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