Laws (Apr 2021)

The EU Charter of Rights and Brexit Effect on the Implementation of Economic and Social Rights among EU Member States

  • Nirmala Pillay

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 31
p. 31


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This article examines the extent to which the inclusion of the European Union (EU) Charter of Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the Treaty of Lisbon which gives legal force to socio-economic rights as well as civil and political rights,conomic will succeed in helping EU member states meet international treaty obligations to implement socio-economic rights. Will the EU’s renewed commitment to developing the social sphere, post-Brexit, be more successful and will British citizens lose out on socio-economic rights in the long term if the EU succeeds in creating a better social or public dimension? Member states of the EU that have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) have obligations to progressively realise economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights. Progress on this has been slow and potentially made more difficult by the economic direction adopted by the EU since the 1980s. Although the EU, from the beginning, saw itself as a “social market” it struggled to embed the “social” to the same extent that it embedded the “market”. Critics argue that the economic policies of the EU and key judgements of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) successfully dis-embedded the market from its social context. Additionally, the regulatory regime of the EU developed in a direction that limited the capacity of nation states to ameliorate the consequences of market-led policies for the least advantaged. However, the Charter of Rights, which places socio-economic rights on an equal footing with civil and political rights, is a novel and bold initiative. It has stimulated debate on whether the Charter could rebalance the EU’s economic agenda by paying attention to the social consequences of predominantly market-led policies. This paper examines the potential impact of the EU Charter, in the context of member states international human rights obligations, to create an environment where member states of the EU have fewer obstacles to the “progressive realization” of ESC rights.