Annual Report of the NIHRC and ECNI on the implementation of Protocol Article 2 2021 – 2022
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland have published their first Annual Report on the implementation of Protocol Article 2.
Under the Ireland/NI Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement reached with the EU, the UK Government committed to ensuring that there would be no diminution of the rights, safeguards, and equality of opportunity provisions, set out in the chapter of the same name in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in Northern Ireland, as a result of Brexit. Both Commissions are tasked with ensuring that the UK Government meets its commitment and are responsible for monitoring, supervising, enforcing and reporting on the ongoing implementation of the commitment.
Over the reporting period, we have worked to secure the effective implementation of Protocol Article 2 through engagement with officials in the NI Office and the Executive Office in NI; through more formal advice in responses to consultations and submissions on legislation and policy; and through engagement with the NI Assembly and UK Parliamentary Committees. One of our key recommendations has been to ensure that consideration of Protocol Article 2 is embedded at the earliest stages of policy and legislative development. We have also advised the UK Government and NI Executive that Protocol Article 2 requires monitoring any proposed changes by the EU which would amend or replace the Annex 1 Equality Directives and includes monitoring relevant CJEU case law, to ensure NI law keeps pace with changes which enhance protections.
The Commissions have already identified ways in which new laws risk undermining the rights, safeguards and equality protections in Protocol Article 2. We have identified protections for victims of trafficking in the EU Trafficking Directive as falling within scope of Protocol Article 2 and are very concerned that provisions in the Nationality and Borders Act may be in breach of the non-diminution commitment. We have also raised concerns about potential non-compliance with Protocol Article 2 in relation to the Elections Act and called on the UK Government to set out its assessment of how the (then) Bill conformed with Protocol Article 2.
We are pleased to present the advice and recommendations arising from our work over the first fifteen months of our new mandate and look forward to the Secretary of State’s written response.