One of the Brexiteers’ key arguments was that leaving the EU would free us from an unelected bureaucracy and return sovereignty to Parliament. Instead, we seem to be seeing a power-grab by the executive of a level unseen since the days of absolute monarchy.
The provisions of the draft Great Repeal Bill, which of course requires the UK to take over around 12,000 regulations from the EU, essentially allow the government to amend these without consulting Parliament using rules dating back to Henry VIII’s time. The government claims this will only be used for technical “corrections” – but that’s not what the draft wording says. for those interested in these things, the form of words used is:
A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the
Minister considers appropriate to prevent, remedy or mitigate—
(a) any failure of retained EU law to operate effectively, or
(b) any other deficiency in retained EU law,
arising from the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU
This is extraordinarily broad and, given how broad a sweep of activities are covered, would give the government vast powers unhindered by the need to consult the elected representatives.
The fact this this is being done under the cover of implementing “the will of the people” is especially worrying. it comes against a backdrop of:
- An attempt to trigger Article 50 without a parliamentary vote
- An attack on judges who prevented this by Brexiteers also claiming that they were thwarting the popular will (they weren’t, they were merely interpreting the law)
- An election called by Theresa May on the spurious grounds that Parliament was lining up to block Brexit – only days after it had passed the triggering of Article 50 by 494 to 122
- The PM’s claim that she has an overwhelming mandate to leave the single market, when the Referendum result was only 52/48 and there has never been an opinion poll showing a majority of favour of leaving that market
- A Referendum campaign in which minister of the crown had told blatant factual lies and, far from being reprimanded were actually promoted
Regardless of anyone’s views on Brexit, we are entering dangerous ground here – a government which aims to rule by decree, to force through highly controversial legislation as though it had a massive consensus behind it, a party which is willing to call judges “enemies of the people” when they don’t do it’s bidding. What the government also seems to have forgotten is that if they were to lose an election (and every government falls in the end) these powers would be inherited by the next government – which could quite possibly be headed by Jeremy Corbyn. Imagine a Britain led by Corbyn, ruling by decree and unchecked by either the EU or by Parliament. Imagine that Conservatives had made that possible.
This is not the Britain of Magna Carta or of parliamentary sovereignty – it’s more akin to Putin’s Russia. MPs and citizens who value parliamentary sovereignty need to stand up to these trends and ensure that the Commons, and indeed the Lords, are able to continue holding their government to account. No issue – even Brexit – is more important than that.