The round-table structured discussion brought together the Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission, the Deputy Director of the Government Equality Office, the Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, the chair of the Conservative Lawyers Association, the Legal Advisor to the Women and Equalities Commission, members of thee House of Lords, several leading academics from several university, QCs, chief executives from relevant NGOs, the senior lead on Brexit and equality from the Trade Union Congress, and the British Medical Association, and doctoral students too. The discussion confronted the challenges Brexit and the EU Withdrawal Bill pose to equality rights in the UK.
The workshop discussed the merits of having a simple, understandable Withdrawal Bill; the value of a preamble or interpretative clause to guide future interpretations of Equality Act, 2010; how to confront arguments that post-Brexit equality rights would be too costly; the lack of clarity in key terms on in the Withdrawal Bill; and the need for effective Parliamentary scrutiny for changes to equality rights. Discussants also focused on devolution and equality: Brexit is a crucial moment to consider inter-governmental mechanisms and to ensure all voices in the UK equally participate in the process of withdrawing.
The workshop ended on a hopeful note: that Brexit, while a moment of deep change, is also a chance to enrich and embed the UK’s commitment to equality for all.