When Theresa May triggers Article 50, it will place a huge burden on parliament, which will need to push through vast swathes of legislation.
The government might save parliament from a great deal of the work by planning an unprecedented bill to transfer thousands of European laws into British law in one action. It’s called the Great Repeal Bill (GRB).
But far from being a one-time mechanism to deal with Brexit, campaign groups say the bill could affect democracy for decades to come.
Unprecedented level of unaccountable powers
The bill will repeal the European Communities Act 1972, converting all EU laws into UK law after Brexit. After this, they can be repealed or replaced bit by bit. But in the process, the government will gain so-called ‘Henry VIII powers’. This will allow government ministers to “repeal rights, protections and standards” outside of parliamentary scrutiny. Sam Fowles, the legal academic who wrote the report, said in a statement:
The Great Repeal Bill is almost unprecedented in scope, form, and lasting effects. It has the potential to empower the government to effectively legislate without the consent of Parliament. So far, there has been an almost total absence of transparency in the government’s approach.
Global Justice Now Director Nick Dearden, meanwhile, said:
We fear the Great Repeal Bill will make extensive use of so-called Henry VIII powers which will allow government ministers to make substantial changes to our legal system without proper parliamentary scrutiny. Even in Tudor times these powers were controversial. Today they could allow ministers to jettison equality legislation, workers’ rights and environmental protections. We know that MPs have an enormous task here, but these changes must happen in a way that doesn’t involve granting Theresa May the powers of a renaissance monarch.
The briefing criticises the bill for creating accountability gaps allowing space for such powers. The government can then “pick and mix” what EU norms stay or go without consulting parliament.
The best way forward
The preceding week, the Institute for Government also warned against using Henry VIII powers to legislate after Brexit. It suggested that relevant departments set out a series of white papers to discuss the available options.
Fowles suggests more detail as well. The Great Repeal Bill needs to be specific and not a ‘skeleton bill’. There must be time for consultation and debate. Any delegated power must be clear and definite in scope. And it should also come with a guarantee that it won’t undermine our current human rights or environmental standards.
This is the second report to come out in the last week warning against potential Henry VIII powers. MPs are bracing themselves for what this might mean. And based on the current government’s track record, we should be ready to oppose the potential dent to our democracy.
– Read more Canary articles on Brexit.
Featured image via Wikipedia
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?