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Government confirms Brexit ahead of human rights reform

26 January 2017

Plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights are on hold until the Brexit negotiations have been completed, Justice Minister Sir Oliver Heald has confirmed.

Answering a question in the House of Commons from the SNP's Angela Crawley, who asked what recent progress had been made on the Government’s plans to replace the Human Rights Act 1998, Sir Oliver replied: "We are committed to reforming our domestic human rights framework, and we will return to our proposals once we know the arrangements for our exit from the European Union."

When Conservative David Nuttall followed up by asking whether the Government agreed "that leaving the European Union and freeing the United Kingdom from the bonds of the charter of fundamental rights must be their top priority", Sir Oliver replied: "I do agree with that. I think it important for us to sort out the EU side of matters, and the exit from the EU, before we return to that subject."

Asked by Ms Crawley how Justice Secretary Liz Truss planned to guarantee that the proposed British Bill of Rights would not "compromise the autonomy of the Scottish legal system", the minister said that dates had been offered for a meeting, "and I hope it will be possible for the meeting to take place. There will be some time for that now, because, as I have said, we will return to our proposals once we know the arrangements for exit from the EU".

It is stiil not known what a British Bill of Rights would contain, but it has recently been reported that the Government is considering postponing its plans until after the 2020 general election, in which it would adopt a stronger manifesto commitment to leave the European Convention also – making it harder for the House of Lords to block such a move.

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