Conservative Party risks sending out 'really strange message' on EU rights, warns Tory MP

Failure to incorporate the EU charter of fundamental rights into UK law after Brexit sends out "a really strange message" about the Conservative Party's attitude, a senior Tory has said.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve said people now viewed things like LGBT rights "as being rights of a fundamental character".

He also accused ministers of a "paltry" response to the matter, adding that he hoped peers would revisit the issue when the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill makes its way through the Lords.

Ministers have previously said the rights in the charter will be protected and are maintained through other means.

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Conservative former minister Anna Soubry, a fellow Brexit rebel, added the Bill is "in much better shape" than when first drafted, although warned it is still "not fit for purpose".

But Ms Soubry said she would not be supporting any amendments bar those moved by the Government as ministers sought to steer the flagship legislation through its remaining stages in the Commons.

The Government comfortably won the first three votes at report stage, which runs until Wednesday.

It is then expected to receive its third reading before it heads to the Lords, where it is likely to be pulled apart further by peers.

Speaking at the Bill's report stage in the Commons, Mr Grieve said: "I listen very carefully to what the Prime Minister says about modernising the Conservative Party, about giving it a broad appeal to younger people, about trying to ensure that we reflect current norms and standards in our country and give effect to them in the sorts of policies we develop.

"And yet ... it does seem to me that in simply batting this issue away and saying don't worry, it's all going to be perfectly alright, without even coming up with a plan for the future about possibly adding a bill of rights clause or rights clauses to the Human Rights Act, we're sending out a really very strange message about our attitude on this side of the House to matters which I believe many people in this country now see as being rights of a fundamental character, particularly on issues like LGBT and things of that sort."

Mr Grieve, who led a Tory rebellion over the Bill at committee stage, said the Government had provided a mechanism where the rights in the charter could be invoked for three months after exit day, but not in a way which challenges primary legislation.

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"I have to say that I think that the response on this matter is, frankly, rather paltry," he said.

"It is a minuscule change, although I will also say this, that minuscule though it may be, it is actually a little wedge in the door, because it represents quite a major surrender or change of principle on the part of the Government towards this issue."

Mr Grieve added that he did not think the Bill would pass through the House of Lords "without this issue being considered".

Labour former minister Chris Leslie told ministers that it was "peculiar" the Charter of Fundamental Rights had been excluded from the Bill.

But Solicitor General Robert Buckland said: "In seeking to retain the Charter of Fundamental Rights in domestic law after exit, not only do we sow potential confusion but we fundamentally misunderstand what that Charter actually means in the first place."