Wales and the UK-EU Trade & Cooperation Agreement: Human Rights

Published 21/09/2022   |   Reading Time minutes

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) sets up the new UK-EU relationship following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Our UK-EU series summarises key parts of the agreement and what it means for Wales.

This guide explains the TCA’s environment, climate and energy provisions, which are summarised below:


The TCA establishes a complex network of new UK-EU forums, explained in another guide in this series. Discussions and decision-making on the TCA’s human rights provisions can take place at the Partnership Council and Specialised Committee on Law Enforcement and Judicial Cooperation.

The Welsh Government can attend some meetings as an observer. Senedd Research articles provide regular updates on how Wales is represented in UK-EU relations.

Human rights in the TCA

Human rights are embedded in the new UK-EU relationship so that their cooperation is contingent on ‘respect for human rights’. This applies to the TCA and to future UK-EU agreements.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) plays an important role in the TCA and emphasis is placed on giving effect to ECHR rights and freedoms domestically. For the UK, this is a clear reference to the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA).

The TCA contains different mechanisms to incorporate human rights into its governance, which are described in this guide.

Law enforcement and judicial cooperation

Specific human rights commitments are included in Part 3 of the TCA on law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. Examples of UK-EU cooperation include the exchange of DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data, and criminal record information.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ECHR are cited as the basis for cooperation in this area in Article 524, where the importance of giving effect to the rights and freedoms of the ECHR domestically is again emphasised.

European Convention on Human Rights

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU does not affect its status as a party to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which is a Council of Europe treaty.

While parliamentarians, academics and experts disagree on the extent to which the TCA ties the UK to the ECHR and its implementing legislation in the UK, most agree that the UK Government has several options to limit ECHR rights while avoiding withdrawal from the ECHR, repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 or a breach of UK-EU obligations.

Article by Sara Moran, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament