The Withdrawal Bill: This is not about process, it's about power

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill has just published. It proposes a process for converting EU legislation into the UK statute book law is already eliciting more questions than answers. The response from many has been to raise concern about the scope of the powers given to the government.

Unlock Democracy's Director, Alexandra Runswick, said:

“This is one of the most broad and constitutionally significant bills to go through Parliament and will have massive ramifications for us all, and future generations.

"People should be concerned.  This bill is not just about process, it’s  about power.  If Brexit was about taking back control, the repeal bill makes it very clear that Westminster government is the only beneficiary.

"The bill will hand significant powers to ministers on an unprecedented scale and the public should be concerned that at the moment the appropriate checks and balances are simply not in place. As it stands there is a very real threat that these powers could be used to substantially rewrite our laws behind closed doors.

"Publishing the Bill before giving MPs sight of it did not get the process off to a good start  and does not set the tone for an inclusive, open process.

"There are already concerns about the scope and extent of the powers handed to May and this raises questions about how much our parliamentary representatives will be able to scrutinise all the legislation. By failing to meaningfully involve MPs and the devolved governments Theresa May is setting a course for constitutional crisis.

"We have clear asks and expectations:

  • The Bill must not be rushed through and clear safeguard must be added to the bill. A  second reading should only take place after the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has had time to consider it

  • Existing scrutiny procedures for the powers in this bill are woefully inadequate. Parliament is going to have to scrutinise around 1,000 individual statutory instruments in this bill and without additional capacity this will simply not happen.  

  • For public confidence to be restored this cannot be a power grab by Government Ministers but an opportunity to meaningfully engage our representatives

  • The devolution settlement must not be undermined, if anything it should be strengthened."


Notes To Editors:

[1] Unlock Democracy recently published a wide ranging report - Democratic Brexit: Avoiding constitutional crisis in Brexit Britain. It concludes that the UK now needs a codified constitution to avoid constitutional crisis.