Trade Bill threatens disabled people’s rights after Brexit, say rights groups

By agency reporter
July 17, 2018

Disability and human rights campaigners have written to Trade Secretary Liam Fox, warning that ministerial powers in the Trade Bill could be used to remove disabled people’s rights – including access to public transport – after Brexit.

Liberty, Business Disability Forum, Amnesty International UK, Disability Rights UK and 16 other groups are concerned by provisions in the Bill that let ministers change laws like the Equality Act without parliamentary scrutiny, in order to implement international trade agreements.

The Equality Act requires public vehicles to be accessible for disabled people – who rely far more than non-disabled people on public transport to access leisure facilities, local services and shops. Accessible public transport is also critical to disabled people’s ability to work.

Under the Trade Bill, a minister could remove this requirement in the name of striking an international trade deal on vehicle manufacturing without consulting MPs. 

Ahead of the Commons vote on the plans today (17 July 2018), the campaigners have urged Mr Fox to add a commitment to the text of the Bill to protect human rights and equality laws as the UK leaves the European Union. They claim the ministerial powers “cannot be justified” to achieve the Bill’s stated aim – of rolling over existing trade agreements the UK has through our membership of the EU.

Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said: “This Trade Bill turns crucial protections into bargaining chips. With no consent from Parliament or the public, ministers would be able to dispose of vital protections against discrimination and prevent equal access to jobs, education, transport and public services simply because another country thinks equality gets in the way of trade.

“Human rights are not up for negotiation – MPs must press the Government for a cast-iron legal commitment that they won’t be undermined in the name of trade.”

Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive of Business Disability Forum, said: “Unamended the Trade Bill could have serious consequences for the one in five people in the UK who have a disability; many of whom rely on public transport far more than non-disabled people to access local services and shops.

“Accessible public transport also plays a key role in the Government’s pledge to support an additional one million disabled people into employment.

“Much progress has been made in making public transport more accessible, but all of this could be lost without a renewed commitment from the Government to protect people’s rights.”

The letter has been signed by:

  • Liberty
  • Business Disability Forum
  • Action on Hearing Loss
  • Ambitious About Autism
  • Amnesty International UK
  • The Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations
  • British Stammering Association
  • Dimensions
  • Disability Law Service
  • Disability Rights UK
  • Equality and Diversity Forum
  • Just Fair
  • Leonard Cheshire
  • Mencap
  • NAT (National Aids Trust)
  • Women’s Budget Group
  • René Cassin
  • Research Institute for Disabled Consumers
  • Royal National Institute of Blind People
  • United Response

* Read the full thext of the letter here

* Liberty https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/

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