The British government has taken its first irrevocable step towards becoming a sovereign nation by voting to pass the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the Great Repeal Bill. By voting to pass this, Britain has chosen to end the supremacy of European Union (EU) law over British law and make the first decisive move in separating herself from EU dominance in the courts.
Since the Brexit vote, Britain’s opposition party, Labour, has been working against the will of the British people to try and keep the UK tied to the EU via backdoor channels, such as deals on the Single Market entry and Free Movement of People. There have been multiple court cases that have tried to limit the ability of the government to fully extricate the UK from the EU by claiming that parliamentarians do not have the right to take the country out of a “trade agreement” that was signed 40 years ago. This historic vote has made escape possible.
The Bill passed by a vote of 326 votes to 290 giving a clear majority to move forward. The Institute for Government sets out what the three main points of the Repeal are:
- Repeals the European Communities Act 1972. This legislation provides legal authority for EU law to have effect as national law in the UK. This will no longer be the case after Brexit.
- Brings all EU laws onto the UK books. This means that laws and regulations made over the past 40 years while the UK was a member of the EU will continue to apply after Brexit.
- Give ministers power to make secondary legislation. Technical problems will arise as EU laws are put on the statute book. For instance, many EU laws mention EU institutions in which the UK will no longer participate after Brexit, or mention “EU law” itself, which will not be part of the UK legal system after Brexit. There will not be time for Parliament to scrutinize every change, so the bill will give ministers some powers to make these changes by secondary legislation, which is subject to less scrutiny by MPs.
The first point shows just how far into the EU machine British sovereignty has gone; the fact that unelected bureaucrats in Brussels can propose laws that will be voted on by 27 other countries and then automatically made British law even if Britain votes against them was one of the main reasons that the Leave Vote won the referendum.
The second point is in place to make sure that there are no “legal gaps” between the time the EU laws are repealed to the time British ministers make new laws. By taking into British law all of the laws made by the EU (at least 54% of British law has been imposed by the EU according to most sources, but the fact that no one can actually give a definite answer is even more worrying), they can then be voted on, thrown out, or kept in place by the British Parliament!
The third point has been the most contentious, and the one on which 290 British members of Parliament are basing their vote against British sovereignty. This aspect allows Ministers to strike laws that are no longer valid from the law books. For example, when Britain is no longer subject to the supremacy of the European Courts, any laws that say decisions must be passed to the “upper courts” will not be needed. This part gives them the power to remove that law without a lengthy parliamentary scrutiny process. It is a flimsy reason to give for denying Britain’s sovereignty, members of Parliament will still get to vote and have their say; they just won’t be able to hold it up indefinitely.
Why then are almost half of the people elected to look after Britain’s interests fighting against making British law supreme in Britain? The simple answer is because they don’t want to leave the European Union and will do all they can to ensure that Brexit is stopped (or at least becomes an “in name only” exit).
The vast majority of the British Establishment, including MPs and media, campaigned against Brexit; Project Fear was designed to make the “little people” fear leaving the Status Quo, yet despite all this, the British people voted to reclaim their sovereignty. So now, the Establishment wants them to suffer.
The Great Repeal Bill is a major step in ensuring that Britain is not kept shackled to European Union laws; and as such, those who voted against it have begun a campaign to suggest that it will give “sweeping powers” to Members of Parliament and Ministers. But the reality is that these powers always existed, they were just in the hands of the other EU nations.
British politicians may be weak, spineless, and self-serving, but at least they can be voted out every five years. The European Commission, on the other hand, is unelected, and cannot be removed by British citizens. This Bill is about real democracy, the democracy that allows ordinary people to cast off the shackles of tyranny. And that’s why so many voted against it.