The agenda of the government has been unveiled as it appears to attempt to place itself above the law.
Only one day after triggering Article 50, giving notification of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the government published details of its “Great Repeal Bill”. Next month the House of Commons will debate a clause in the bill which means UK citizens will be unable to sue the government on issues including workers’ rights, environmental policy and business regulation.
The European Court of Justice’s 1991 decision in Francovich v Italy established that member states of the European Union could be liable to pay compensation to individuals who suffered loss by reason of the member state’s failure to transpose an EU directive into national law. Yet a clause in the repeal bill explicitly states that the Francovich case will not apply on, or after, exit day.
The government has loosely stated that individuals would retain the ability to receive damages or compensation for losses caused by breaching the law, but it is unclear if or how this would be possible. Experts have also warned that the government would not be liable for past breaches of EU law when it was a member state.
In addition, Labour’s Chair of the Brexit Select Committee, Hilary Benn, has said the bill amounts to what is essentially a “blank legislative check”.
Martha Spurrier, the Director of the UK charity Liberty, has emphasised just how essential the Human Rights act is. She states that:
“this chilling clause [will] quietly take away one of the British people’s most vital tools for defending their rights.”
The key defenders of Human Rights are not alone in their mistrust of the Government, with Ministers being urged to put more checks in place to limit the “sweeping powers”.