It’s easy to be distracted by the chaotic mess of Theresa May’s reshuffle. From Jeremy Hunt digging in his heels and keeping his NHS brief despite his disastrous record to Justine Greening resigning, May’s reshuffle plans weren’t exactly a success.
But in the background, the Conservatives are quietly making a massive power grab. And it is one that is both sinister and extremely worrying.
The trade bill
Parliament is debating the trade bill on Tuesday 9 January. The bill is aimed at allowing the UK to negotiate trade deals after leaving the EU. But there is a massive problem. It would give the government the power to make whatever trade deals it wanted without parliamentary scrutiny. And this could threaten human rights and equality legislation.
Civil rights group Liberty has described [pdf] the current bill as:
A significant threat to the rule of law and fundamental rights.
Liberty also summed up the implications of the bill in this tweet:
If the #Brexit Trade Bill passes as it is, we might as well get rid of Parliament. It lets ministers rewrite our laws to secure trade deals. So if a country wants us to water down rights protections, ministers can do it – totally cutting out Parliament https://t.co/u240GAhhQj
— Liberty (@libertyhq) January 9, 2018
And writing in The Guardian, Labour MP Geraint Davies sets out one of the reasons why the bill is so problematic:
Ministers taking the power to copy and paste existing trade arrangements would also have the power to create and edit trade deals without parliamentary scrutiny. On that basis, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump would be allowed to agree a new trade deal behind closed doors without any democratic accountability.
Meanwhile, a coalition of social justice groups, trade unions, and environmental organisations including the Trade Justice Movement, Global Justice Now, Traidcraft and Unison is opposing the bill.
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, described the bill as a “power grab”. He also stated:
We’re abolishing the scrutiny of MEPs but rather than handing it to MPs, Liam Fox is taking it for himself. He’s flying around the world meeting tyrannical regimes and proposing outlandish ideas like joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and yet MPs are in the dark.
Taking back control
One of the fundamental principles guiding the Leave vote was the notion of “taking back control”. But instead of control reverting to parliament, the government seems intent on grabbing as much of it as it can for itself. From the European Withdrawal Act to this trade bill, Tory MPs are using Brexit as a means of avoiding parliamentary scrutiny.
And this should worry us all.
– Write to your MP about the trade bill.
– Support Global Justice Now.
Featured image via David Mirzoeff
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