Implications on Human Rights
The migrant crisis in the recent past has marked an uptick in the right wing propaganda across the European continent. For people concerned about human rights – the provisions for economic, political, social and cultural rights in the international scenario that still serve as the best mechanisms for the protection of human dignity, justice, solidarity, remain largely at stake. The conventional argument pushed by the “Bremain” group stands as follows: How can anyone who cares about human dignity supports, in their good conscience and sanity, Johnson’s sneering racism on one hand, and/or an EU of the fortress Europe that does not care about the thousands dying in its seas and its borders, and suffer under the structural violence of austerity, on the other? Our understanding of human rights might help us answer this question better. The leave campaign has drawn upon the xenophobic rhetoric that the right-wing press has stirred for decades, erroneously depicting “human rights” as baleful mechanisms created in the first place to facilitate access and safe havens for terrorists in prisons, “protected” from their victims. It is imperative to understand that ‘human rights’ in fact contain a range of rights from the individually oriented to the collective.
Remembering the full spectrum of what is meant by ‘human rights’, those responding to the Brexit debate from a progressive, left wing perspective are now concerned about their fate in the possible post-referendum Britain more than ever. Human Rights are at stake more than ever given that the Conservatives pledged to scrap the Human Rights Act, 1998 in the last general election. As an act of the parliament, the Human Rights Act stitched the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into the British law: like any other piece of legislation it can be removed at any time by a new Act of the Parliament. The European Court of Justice (ECJ), on the other hand, being an EU body, draws upon the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, and its Convention. Thus, the argument as it stood, meant cutting the link between ECJ and the ECHR. The impact of this on UK as a non-standard member of the EU has been complicated further by the Treaty of Lisbon. A Brexit pushed by a xenophobic government with a track record of curtailing workers’ rights, the rights of the protestors, and human rights as a whole is likely to leave the Britons in a more precarious position in terms of the mechanisms they can draw upon to defend themselves. However, this criticism might take result into blindly defending the EU itself. The broader argument put forward by pro-EU liberals that the union was formed in the first place to “bring peace and co-operation to Europe” stands unconvincing today. To those on its borders, in its prisons, and on the blunt end of EU neoliberal policies, the EU remains hardly a protector.