Alternatives to free movement

LCHR’s preference is for a post-Brexit immigration system based on free movement or a variation of free movement. However, if this proves impossible to attain, it will be vital for Labour to ensure the most damaging aspects of the current non-EU system are not foisted on EU nationals.

In our latest briefing, we explore the pitfalls of the current system and argue that any new system implemented for EU nationals arriving in the UK from January 2021 should not mirror it.

Would you like to join LCHR’s board of directors?

LCHR is now advertising for a new non-executive director to sit on our board. If you’re an LCHR member, or if you join before the deadline, you are eligible and welcome to apply.

Please view a description of the role here. Please note, this is an incredible opportunity to get involved in the running of LCHR, but it’s also a serious responsibility. Being a non-executive director carries legal responsibilities, which you can read more about here.

If you would like to apply, please send your CV and a cover letter to andrew.noakes@lchr.org.uk by the deadline (22 April). Candidates will be shortlisted, interviewed, and then appointed by the current board. We look forward to your application!

Brexit and human rights project briefing No. 4: Variations on free movement

The Labour Campaign for Human Rights is pleased to publish the fourth briefing of our Brexit and human rights project. The briefing provides an objective human rights analysis of three proposed variations on free movement: free movement with a job offer, free movement with an emergency break, and free movement limited by regional or sectoral quotas.

The final section of this briefing considers the recurring human rights risks posed by these three alternatives to free movement, and makes some recommendations for Labour’s priorities for a humane, progressive post-Brexit immigration system.

You can read the briefing here.

Brexit and Human Rights Briefing No.3: Free Movement and Human Rights

The Labour Campaign for Human Rights is pleased to publish our third Brexit and Human Rights Briefing: Free Movement and Human Rights.

The briefing offers an honest analysis of the system’s impact on human rights in order to aid our understanding of its alignment with progressive values and how it could fit into Labour’s approach to Brexit. This briefing situates free movement alongside Britain’s considerably less human rights compliant immigration system for those outside the EU, and argues that a priority for Labour must be to ‘level up’ rights for non-EU migrants. We also consider how Labour can listen to and recognise the concerns of voters regarding free movement, whilst also combating attempts to scapegoat migrants by redirecting the legitimate anger felt at economic insecurity towards their true sources.

Why we should be concerned by the government’s secretive approach to Brexit

The defining message of the Vote Leave campaign was that “leaving the EU … will save our sovereignty.” Before and after the referendum, leading Brexiteers within the government have embedded their arguments of global trade and reduced immigration within the noble principle that parliament, and by extension the British people it represents, remain sovereignty.

Yet this week saw yet another clear demonstration of the government curtailing parliamentary oversight of its’ disastrous Brexit strategy. After weeks of delaying tactics in which the government refused to comply with cross-party calls that it release a series of confidential studies on the economic impact of Brexit, Brexit Secretary David Davis risks becoming the first politician in centuries to be held in contempt of parliament after finally distributing incomplete and heavily edited reports.

The government withheld any information they considered ‘sensitive’, despite a binding, unanimous vote by MPs for complete access of the documents as well as reassurances by the Brexit select committee that any sensitive information would be treated appropriately. David Davis’ extreme self-editing meant that MPs received around twenty reports fewer than expected, with Keir Starmer expressing his shock at the paucity of information that the government deemed fit to share.

The fact that MPs had to utilise every parliamentary trick available just to secure the release of the modified information, including a ‘humble address’ that directly called upon The Queen to force Mr Davis to release the impact assessments, demonstrates the government’s desire to keep parliament at arms-length whilst key decisions are made by Theresa May’s core team. To then release such a watered-down version of what parliament requested was too much even for fierce Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said the government was “in serious constitutional waters if it doesn’t provide the full information … if you try to trample the rights of Commons in government … you have no means of curtailing abuses of power.”

Yet this remarkably disrespectful approach should not be surprising, as secrecy and concentration of executive power has defined this government’s approach to Brexit. The government’s ‘Great Repeal Bill’ has been widely criticised for granting extraordinarily sweeping and unchecked powers to ministers as they incorporate EU directives into British law. Meanwhile, Andrea Leadsom has also passed a motion to swing influential public bill committees in the government’s favour.

The dispute over the Brexit documents is simply the latest demonstration that, despite its empty rhetorical commitment to the sanctity of parliamentary sovereignty, this government would rather circumvent our parliamentary checks and balances. Labour must continue to oppose the government’s efforts to deliver the hard, centrally-managed Brexit that the electorate resoundingly rejected in June.

Joe Duffy is LCHR’s Campaign Intern 

Briefing: The Dangers of the Prevent Strategy

LCHR is is pleased to publish our briefing on The Dangers of the Prevent Strategy.

The briefing argues that by introducing a statutory duty for many public sector workers to identify and report individuals at risk of being drawn into terrorism, the Prevent strategy has incited suspicion, threatened human rights, and resulted in misguided referrals. We found that the strategy’s flawed assumptions, as well as the inadequate training it provides, has created an atmosphere of distrust and fear which is counterproductive to its goals.

By examining a number of case studies, this briefing argues that the Prevent strategy risks encroaching a number of core liberties, including freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom from discrimination. Prevent also disproportionately targets and impacts members of the Muslim community, with detrimental consequences for the success of Britain’s counter-terrorism initiatives.

In conclusion, LCHR recommends abolishing Prevent’s statutory duties and working with communities to find more effective, human rights-compliant alternatives.

You can read the briefing here.

Concerns about Voter ID pilot

A guest blog by LCHR member, Dermot Mckibbin

The Government has announced that a pilot scheme will be set up to require voters to produce identification in the polling booth prior to voting. Local councils will decide on what is suitable identification, and if voters do not have the required identification they will not be able to vote. Postal votes will be unaffected.

Four pilot exercises will be conducted in Bromley (Conservative) Watford (Lib Dem), Woking, and Gosport (both Conservative).  After the pilots have been evaluated, a decision by the Government’s Cabinet Office will be taken whether to roll out the practice nationally or not.

It is not clear whether voters have to produce both photographic and non-photographic identification at the same time. No decision has been made about what type of identification is acceptable. The details have still to be worked out. It appears that the Cabinet Office will be involved in the decision-making process as a statutory instrument will be required.

The voter ID requirement was introduced in Northern Ireland in 2003. Turnout for the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections was 68.8% in 1998, 63.1% in 2003, 62.3% in 2007, 55.7% in 2011, 54.9% in 2016 and 64.8% in 2017. An Electoral Commission report on the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections fails to even consider whether the fall in voter turnout was due to the ID requirement issue.

The Electoral Reform Society is opposed to voter ID. 51.4 million votes were cast in 2015. There were 130 allegations of voting fraud and only 26 were for voter impersonation. This represents 0.00005% of the votes cast. The Government is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

In the 2011 census, 9.5 million people stated that they had no passport, 9 million did not have a driving licence, and – in 2013/4 – 1.7 million did not have a bank account. Many of these people are likely to have low incomes.

There are some legal problems with the Government’s approach. The courts can scrutinise decisions made by Government via the process of judicial review. It may be that the courts would strike down this scheme as the decision is disproportionate to the problem it seeks to remedy. Challenges to government decisions in the courts via judicial review are an expensive business, though group funding can be successful.

By virtue of Article 3 of the First protocol in the European Convention of Human Rights, The United Kingdom undertakes to hold free elections. Strasbourg case-law has established that any interference with the implied right to vote must be proportionate. The European Council on Human Rights has a code of practice on electoral matters. Any deprivation of the right to vote must be subject to the principle of proportionality.

If Labour cannot change this policy in Parliament, progressive citizens should band together to fund raise to challenge this restriction on the right to vote in the courts.

Dermot Mckibbin
Beckenham CLP