The Trade Bill and rights protections
The Trade Bill should be a narrow, straightforward piece of legislation – making sure we can keep trading internationally after Brexit.
The Government claims its aim is to roll over existing trade agreements the UK has gained through our membership of the European Union (EU).
But the Bill includes powers that let ministers unilaterally rewrite laws like the Equality Act and the Modern Slavery Act at the request of a foreign power.
And it includes no safeguards to prevent ministers from rolling back rights protections.
The plans are the Government’s latest attempt to undermine democracy and bypass parliamentary scrutiny of the Brexit process – the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and Data Protection Bill contained similar “Henry VIII” powers.
Putting rights at risk
Clause 2 of the Trade Bill lets ministers modify “primary legislation that is retained EU law” “for the purpose of implementing an international trade agreement to which the United Kingdom is a signatory”.
So-called “retained EU law” has been defined to include primary legislation that applies EU mandates in the UK – like the Equality Act and the Modern Slavery Act.
That means ministers may use these Trade Bill powers to amend important laws passed by Parliament – without proper debate or a vote from our elected representatives.
The decision not to safeguard existing rights is a dangerous move that puts at risk laws that have made our society more equal.
With no consent from Parliament or the public, it threatens everything from protections against harassment to equal access to jobs, education, transport and public services.
The human impact of the Trade Bill’s ministerial powers could be devastating.
What are we doing about it?
Liberty is campaigning for the Government to enshrine a commitment to keeping existing rights and equality protections in the letter of the law.
MPs must vote to remove this power grab from the Bill or risk handing over our rights and our sovereignty to the highest international bidder.
Liberty's Briefing on the Trade Bill (second reading) (January 2018)