After the Repeal Bill vote: the race is on to protect our rights after Brexit

Posted by Martha Spurrier on 13 September 2017

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Repeal Bill – a piece of legislation that, in its current form, gives a handful of ministers unprecedented powers to rewrite our laws with no proper scrutiny from Parliament – stumbled over its first parliamentary hurdle.

Officially titled the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, it would let ministers quietly chip away at the many vital rights and equality protections we’ve gained through our EU membership.

Back the People's Clause

Liberty and Amnesty International UK, with your help, are calling on MPs to add a People’s Clause – a clear, simple amendment that would make sure we don’t leave the EU with fewer rights than we have now.

We need a binding commitment in the letter of the law to make sure we can keep defending our rights after Brexit.

It might be disturbing to think a majority of MPs supported such democratically dangerous proposals – but the reality isn’t quite so simple.

We think there’s plenty of reason to hope our campaign for a People’s Clause will succeed.

Reluctant approval

MPs from across the political spectrum spent days ripping the Bill apart before the vote.

Conservative MP and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve branded it an “astonishing monstrosity”, while fellow Conservative Nicky Morgan told the Commons: “Parliamentary scrutiny is not an affront to democracy. It is its very essence.” 

The SNP’s Joanna Cherry demanded a guarantee that the equal pension rights John Walker won for gay couples this summer would be protected.

And Labour’s Keir Starmer pointed out that Brexit Secretary David Davis had himself used the Charter of Fundamental Rights – which we would lose under the current Repeal Bill – when he brought a legal challenge with Tom Watson MP and Liberty against the Government’s mass surveillance regime.

Just hours after the vote, MPs had tabled 157 amendments.

Liberty’s policy experts are now carefully sifting through them in search of those that would guarantee we keep every single right, freedom and equality protection we have now.

Already we’re hopeful that the changes suggested will go at least some way towards preventing any backsliding on rights.

Where we go from here

MPs are scheduled to examine the Repeal Bill line-by-line as early as October.

With a typical disregard for the importance of transparency and robust scrutiny – even when dealing with one of the most important laws in a generation – the Government is rushing it through – allowing just eight days of consideration for a cripplingly complex 66 pages of legal jargon.

But MPs from all parties have already demonstrated a voracious appetite for change – and ministers know they’ll have to make concessions.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be making sure the right amendments are proposed, and rallying MPs to back a People’s Clause that genuinely protects our rights and freedoms.

Join Liberty to add your voice to the growing consensus: the vote leave the EU was not a vote to give up our rights.

Martha Spurrier

Martha Spurrier