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Brexit, human rights and UN

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This page applies mainly to the United Kingdom.
Last updated 7th January, 2021.

This section deals with Brexit and EU law, human rights law, and UN conventions on disability discrimination.


How important are treaties?

With the possible exception of European Union law, you really want to base any disability discrimination case on the Equality Act 2010 (or conceivably the Human Rights Act), rather than any of the international instruments. Even the treaties which are binding in international law normally have fairly weak enforcement mechanisms. International law is not UK law.

The major exceptions are:

  • the Framework Employment Directive, which is part of European Union law. From 2021 the UK (apart from Northern Ireland) is no longer bound by this directive, but the directive and European Court cases on it should continue to have an important effect on UK law and practice even after Brexit;
  • to a lesser extent the European Convention of Human Rights brought into UK law by the Human Rights Act.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, while having rather weak enforcement mechanisms, has a high profile. It may be helpful before the courts where UK law is ambiguous, has been used by the EU Court in interpreting the Framework Employment Directive (above), and may be helpful with public authorities if making a complaint or campaigning for changes: see Does the Convention have teeth?

From May 2012 ministers in Wales have a particular obligation under Welsh law to have due regard to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

In general, any treaties binding on the UK in international law may be relevant in interpreting ambiguous UK law, on the basis that Parliament will not be presumed to have legislated contrary to international obligations. Also even aspects of non-binding instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights may have some legal effect through becoming part of international customary law. However, often treaties are ambiguous themselves.

Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for People who Stutter

Not a legal document but sponsored by the International Stuttering Association (ISA) and the International Fluency Association (IFA). It is available on the ISA website

20th anniversary of stammeringlaw, 1999-2019