Ministers have sought to ease MPs’ fears over post-Brexit rights by pledging to outline within two weeks how a key EU charter will be reflected in UK law.
Justice minister Dominic Raab reiterated a detailed memorandum setting out the post-Brexit future for each article of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights will be drawn up, adding this will be published by December 5.
Mr Raab also said he would be happy to continue talks with Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve, Tory former minister Oliver Letwin and other MPs if they believe any rights have been missed out.
But SNP justice spokeswoman Joanna Cherry said Mr Raab’s “little list” does “not have the same weight” in a court of a law as a codification signed up to by a number of countries.
Confirmation of the document’s publication came as MPs continued their line by line assessment of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which seeks to transfer European law into British law.
Mr Grieve, supported by fellow Tories, and Labour former minister Chris Leslie raised numerous concerns over the Government’s desire to ensure the charter is not part of domestic law on or after exit day.
Mr Grieve has tabled amendments, including that the charter should continue to apply to retained EU law, while Mr Leslie urged ministers to produce a report reviewing the full implications of the charter’s removal.
Ken Clarke, the Tory former justice secretary and Brexit rebel, said: “If it’s doing no harm, why is the Government going to such lengths to get rid of it as the one specific change in this Bill?
“Presumably it’s because it’s got the word ‘European’ and ‘rights’ in it, and this was intended from a Daily Telegraph gesture to the hard right wing of my party.”
Mr Grieve also used his speech to warn the Conservative Party’s modern reputation “starts to fray at the edges” if it fails to be seen to be protecting people’s rights, adding: “It is not a place I would wish my party’s reputation to be seen to be ignoring these key issues.”
He told the Commons he is worried there will be period after Brexit occurs in 2019 of a “hiatus, a gap where areas of law that matter to people are not protected in any way at all”, although added he does not think ministers intend to “diminish” existing rights.
Mr Grieve also warned there could be a “road crash” at the Bill’s report stage in which he will be unable to support “a whole series of matters” unless they can be resolved by consensus.
For the Government, Mr Raab said: “All of those substantive laws, principles and rights of which the charter is a reflection of the source will already be converted into domestic law by this Bill – so it is not necessary to retain the charter in order to retain such substantive rights.
“It is right for me to reaffirm the Government’s commitment, that I think (Brexit Secretary David Davis) made to the select committee, to publish a detailed memorandum setting out how each article of the charter will be reflected in UK law after we leave, and I can confirm we will publish that by the 5th December.
“I hope that reassures (Mr Leslie) and (shadow Brexit minister Paul Blomfield) because both raised that particular point.
“And I would say to (Mr Grieve) I’m very willing to continue the dialogue with him on these important matters.”
Mr Raab, referring to the charter, also said it made no sense for the Government to retain an institutional framework that came from membership of the European Union.