Civil society gearing up to engage with the Repeal Bill as UK moves closer to Brexit
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Launching today an alliance of over 70 charities, NGOs, and organisations from across civil society, have called on the government to ensure that the Repeal Bill does not result in a power grab by ministers and a sidelining of the devolved nations in the Brexit process.
The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, more commonly known as the Repeal Bill, is the first major piece of Brexit legislation to go before the House of Commons. The second reading debate starts on Thursday 7th September.
As MPs prepare to debate one of the most complex and controversial pieces of legislation ever to come before the House of Commons, organisations from across civil society have come together to discuss the impact on them and wider society.
In the bill the government proposes to confer significant powers to ministers to transpose EU onto the UK statute book using secondary legislation. This legislation commonly in the form of Statutory Instruments is little understood, poorly scrutinised by Parliament and consequently not democratically accountable.
Although these delegated powers are meant to make technical changes to legislation, in recent years ministers have been used to make highly controversial and sweeping policy changes, including: changing regulations to allow fracking; abolishing maintenance grants for students; and adding the recent and controversial so-called ‘Rape Clause’ to tax credits.
The alliance, which takes no position on the outcome of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, will be engaging with MPs from all parties over the coming months to ensure that the best possible outcome results from the Repeal Bill.
Samuel Lowe, Campaign Lead (Brexit and Trade Policy) at Friends of the Earth, said:
“Around 80% of our environmental protections come from the EU,and we need them brought over into UK law so that they work just like they do now. This isn’t ‘red tape’, they are rules that exist for a reason: to protect our beaches, air and wildlife, and nobody wants to see these threatened so we can’t let anything fall between the gaps.”
Kevin Hanratty, Director of the Human Rights Consortium, a Northern Ireland based human rights coalition, said:
“The process of exiting the EU represents the single biggest constitutional change in the UK for generations. EU derived rights and systems currently protect people across the UK and have provided an important platform for the Northern Ireland peace process. As the UK leaves the EU it is essential that those protections are not diminished in any way. Key to this will be to ensure proper scrutiny and accountability for the passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill, including respect for the role and current powers of the devolved regions. This Alliance will be an important vehicle in helping bring together the voice of civil society across the UK throughout the passage of that legislation.”
Ellen Jones, President of NUS Wales, said:
“Young people are engaging in politics to a degree unseen for years, and is essential their voices are hear. e UK Government oes not have a lank cheque to seek whatever kind of ‘Brexit’ it desires, and all parts of the UK must be allowed to have a role in the process of leaving the EU. Brexit must cause as little damage as possible. Only by listening to diverse voices across all the UK’s nations, and including students and young people in the process, can any kind of decent ‘Brexit’ be possible.”
Notes to editors
The alliance is a group of over 70 organisations working together to make sure we get the best possible deal for our members, and wider civic society, as the UK leaves the EU. The alliance is Brexit neutral, taking no position on referendum result itself. The alliance is being coordinated by Unlock Democracy.
Information about alliance and its aims can be found on its website here: https://repealbill.org/
The alliance is calling for:
Open and accountable lawmaking:
- Respect for democratic processes, including the devolved nature of the UK constitution.
- There must be clear limits and safeguards on the powers given to ministers in the bill.
- There must be robust parliamentary scrutiny at all levels with appropriate levels of transparency and debate both before and during the conversion process.
A high standards UK:
- Ensuring that as EU law is transposed into domestic law, rights and standards for all sectors are maintained.
- A UK framework for common standards, that is mutually agreed between the four administrations, to enable cross-border working and maintain an internal common market. This framework must respect the devolution settlements, meaning any administration can raise standards within the scope of those settlements, if they wish to do so.
- Leaving the EU must not create a governance gap. EU institutions have a role in monitoring, oversight and ensuring compliance with the law as well as setting regulations. Where governance arrangements are changed as a result of leaving the EU, there must be clear powers and procedures for ensuring the law is properly implemented and enforced on an ongoing basis.