Three-quarters of young people worried Brexit will diminish human rights

‘Young people in Britain care about their rights and don’t want to see them taken away because of Brexit’ – Kate Allen

  • 79% of young people concerned to be left with fewer rights
  • 75% of young people concerned about ‘Henry VIII’ powers for Ministers
  • 57% of Leave voters concerned about rights reduction 

Over three-quarters of young people in Britain are concerned at the prospect of their rights and protections being reduced after the UK exits the EU according to a new poll carried out by YouGov. The results are taken from a poll which looked at attitudes to rights and Brexit across the entire population of Great Britain.

The poll, commissioned by Amnesty International, found that, of those who expressed an opinion, 79% of young voters (aged 18-24) would be concerned to be left with fewer rights and protections after Britain leaves the EU.           

There was also widespread concern about Government plans to give Ministers the power to amend and curtail laws and rights after Brexit, without needing to consult Parliament properly, under what have been termed ‘Henry VIII’ powers. With this issue too, concern was extensive with 75% of young voters who expressed an opinion reporting that they’d be concerned if Ministers were able to change and amend laws without consulting properly, or necessarily needing a vote in, Parliament.

There was general confusion about how leaving the EU would impact rights, with many young people unclear what it would mean for them – around a third (29%) didn’t know how Brexit would impact rights, the same again (29%) thought they would have about the same protections as before, but 38% thought they would be left with fewer rights after Brexit. Only 3% thought they’d get more. 

Concerns around how young people perceive rights are being treated in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill has been raised in Bill debates, including by Conservative backbenchers.

Kate Allen Amnesty International UK’s Director, said:

“Leaving the EU doesn’t have to mean leaving rights behind. The Withdrawal Bill must not be used as a Trojan horse for reducing our rights.

“Young people in Britain care about their rights and don’t want to see them taken away because of Brexit.

“Under current proposals Ministers are not just being given a blank cheque, but rather a blank cheque book to go on editing laws and protections behind closed doors, without due consultation of parliament and proper safeguards for our rights. It’s no wonder young people find this suspicious and concerning.”

Whilst the attitudes of young people were of particular interest, more than one in two (57%) people of all ages who voted Leave (of those who expressed an opinion) said they would be concerned to be left with fewer rights and protections after Brexit.

EU Withdrawal Bill concerns

The Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill includes a number of proposed changes to rights and protections for people in the UK after 29 March 2019, the current date for withdrawal. It is notable that of all the legislation carried across from the EU after the UK leaves, fundamental human rights protections are the only element not being brought across wholesale. In particular Amnesty criticised the Bill’s failure to retain the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in domestic law, weakening the protections currently available to people in the UK. Amnesty has also pointed out that the Bill fails to retain people’s ability to bring a case founded on the EU “general principles”, which include protections such as the right to equality. In addition, Amnesty has raised concerns about how the Bill hands sweeping powers to Ministers to widely alter legislation without appropriate parliamentary scrutiny, warning that such powers place current rights and equality laws at risk in the future.


Notes to editors

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,640 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28 - 29 March 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

The complete findings of the survey are available at

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