What is on this page

Read the joint Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission & Equality Commission for Northern Ireland submission to the European Scrutiny Committee inquiry into ‘Retained EU law: the progress and mechanics of reform’.

Who is this page for?

  • Government
  • Legal Representatives
  • Academics
  • Civil Society Organisations

Joint NIHRC & ECNI Submission to the European Scrutiny Committee inquiry into ‘Retained EU law: the progress and mechanics of reform’

Last Updated: Friday, 3 May 2024

Date produced: February 2024.

Below is a summary of the Commission's recommendations and messages.

You can also download the full document through the links provided.

The NI Human Rights Commission advises and recommends:

3.7 The Commissions recommend that the UK Government and the Executive Office put in place effective structures to monitor areas of policy divergence of equality and human rights on the island of Ireland, post Brexit, as well as divergence of rights between NI and Great Britain, and make that information publicly available, as well as taking steps to address that divergence of rights in a manner aligned to the Commissions’ recommendations in this area, including as set out below.

3.8 The Commissions recommend that North-South equivalence of rights and protections be ensured, by NI law keeping pace with changes to equality and human rights law, arising as a result of EU laws introduced on or after 1 January 2021, that enhance protections. This should include rights introduced as a result of EU laws that do not amend or replace the Annex 1 directives.

3.9 The Commissions recommend that the Irish Government, NI Executive, and UK Government work to enhance and harmonise equality and human rights protections on the island of Ireland, aligned to their respective remits, and make a clear commitment to working towards ensuring North-South equivalence of rights on the island of Ireland so as to strengthen protections.

3.11 The Commissions continue to recommend that both the NI Executive and UK Government ensure effective and regular engagement with civil society, including human rights and equality groups.

3.15 The Commissions recommend that compliance with Windsor Framework Article 2 be considered in advance of amendment, repeal or revocation of assimilated law and fully explained in associated Explanatory Memoranda / Notes or Human Rights Impact Assessments.

3.16 The Commissions recommend that when making any change to Retained EU / assimilated law, the relevant UK or NI Minister confirms that an assessment for compliance with the commitment in Article 2 has been undertaken and that there is no diminution of the rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity as set out in the relevant part of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

3.20 The Commissions recommend that the Northern Ireland Office and Cabinet Office develop and roll out training and guidance on Windsor Framework Article 2 for relevant Westminster departments and act promptly to ensure that the Cabinet Office ‘Guide to Making Legislation’ and all other relevant UK government guidance on policy and legislative development is updated to include detailed advice on consideration of Article 2.

3.27 The Commissions recommend that the REUL Act be amended to include a Clause confirming that sections 2-4 are without prejudice to section 7A of the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

3.28 The Commissions recommend that, consistent with principles of transparency and openness, government publishes guidance on the methodology, scope and approach to be taken by Departments in respect of the proposed codification of interpretative effects on a case-by-case basis, specifically in the context of meeting its Windsor Framework Article 2 commitments.

3.29 Also aligned to the principles of efficiency and effectiveness, and to provide assurances on the UK’s compliance with Windsor Framework Article 2, the Commissions recommend government independently reviews and evaluates, within a reasonable timeframe, the proposed codification process in respect of EU interpretive effects in Northern Ireland, and publishes that evaluation.

3.30 In order to increase accessibility and clarity of the statue book, and increase accountability, transparency and openness, the Commissions recommend that government takes steps to ensure that any changes to the Retained EU / assimilated law in Northern Ireland relating to equality and human rights are made clear and easily accessible, including to those whose rights are affected.

4.5 The Commissions recommend that Ministers engage with stakeholders including the Commissions and human rights and equality organisations in Northern Ireland before using delegated powers to revoke or replace Retained EU / assimilated law relating to Northern Ireland.

4.8 The Commissions recommend that amendment or repeal of Retained EU/assimilated Law, affecting human rights and/or equality protections in Northern Ireland, should be progressed on the basis of continuing adherence to the UK constitutional convention of providing for policy change via the primary legislative process, with technical and operational detail addressed in subordinate legislation. This applies to legislation that emanates from either Westminster or from the NI Assembly.