The government just revealed its plans for the Great Repeal Bill, and it hasn’t put anyone’s mind at ease

The government just revealed its plans for the Great Repeal Bill, and it hasn’t put anyone’s mind at ease

Date: 30 March 2017

Responding to the publication of the White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill, Nick Dearden the director of campaign group Global Justice Now said:

“The White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill confirms that it will give unprecedented power to the government to change ‘a very significant proportion’ of law. The use of Henry VIII powers on this scale should send a chill down the spine of anyone  who genuinely believes in parliamentary sovereignty.

“The lack of mechanisms for scrutiny and accountability in the White Paper means we can have no confidence that the government wouldn’t just jettison all manner of EU regulations relating to employment rights, the environment and consumer standards without debate in  parliament. This is a frightening challenge to our rights – parliament needs to wake up to this power grab.”

On Monday Global Justice Now and Another Europe is Possible released a legal briefing  on Monday called The Great Repeal Bill – Addressing Unaccountable Power which laid out the threat that the bill poses to UK democracy.

The briefing argues that:

  • The opacity of the process and the powers proposed in the legislation risk side-lining Parliament as a decision-making body. In its place the government will be empowered to take unscrutinised and unaccountable decisions behind closed doors, with implications that will last for generations
  • The Bill, as currently proposed suffers from four key accountability gaps. These gaps maximise the discretionary powers of officials and minimise the potential for democratic scrutiny. These gaps would enable the government to “pick and mix” the EU norms that survive and are scrapped in the GRB. This, in effect, represents a power to legislate on a massive scale without the need to consult Parliament.
  • Even if the powers in the GRB are as limited and accountable as possible, the objectives of the Bill cannot be achieved unless it grants the government exceptional legislative power. Such a range of powers has the potential to exceed those of any peacetime administration in the last century.
  • Even with best case scenarios, the Bill cannot avoid creating the space for a gradual, low level, migration of decision-making power away from elected representatives and toward ministers and officials unless a sunset clause curtails those powers after a certain point.