Brexit withdrawal bill enters next round of Commons debate

UNISON backs a raft of amendments aimed at protecting the rights of its members

UNISON is continuing to fight for the democratic, workplace and human rights of its members after Brexit – including the rights of EU citizens – as the controversial EU (Withdrawal) Bill enters its next stage in the House of Commons this week.

The bill, originally called the Great Repeal Bill, is one of eight relating to the UK’s exit from the European Union.

It primarily deals with retaining and transferring EU legislation into UK statute books.

The government is attempting to introduce delegated powers – otherwise known as “Henry VIII powers” – that will enable its ministers to make changes to transferred legislation without the usual scrutiny of Parliament.

UNISON and many others are concerned that this will mean watering down thousands of regulations that protect workplace rights, human rights, equality rights, the environment and much more.

Eight days of debate begin on Tuesday and will be spread overcoming weeks.

UNISON is part of the Repeal Bill Alliance of more than 75 organisations – including charities, NGOs and other civic society organisations – which is backing a series of amendments to the bill aimed at keeping the government in check.

Policy officer Allison Roche commented: “Who is going to scrutinise what government ministers do with these EU laws?

“The only way to ensure we have full democratic accountability of the Brexit changes is through supporting amendments to the bill.

“We need to ensure that ministers do not use delegated powers to reduce our rights.”

Key amendments aim to:

  • limit the circumstances in which delegated powers can be exercised;
  • prevent governments from using delegated powers to reduce workplace protections, equality provisions, health and safety regulations and other fundamental rights;
  • maintain the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice during the transition period and make sure that UK courts have regard to relevant EU case law relating to equality and human rights;
  • establish Parliament’s scrutiny role relating to any changes to legislation;
  • preserve the existing rights of EU citizens after exit day, including residence rights;
  • maintain a soft border in Ireland and keep the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

UNISON is asking members to back the People’s Clause Campaign, led by the civil rights group Liberty, which is aimed squarely at those clauses in the bill related to delegated powers.

The campaign is calling for a “black and white promise” that ministers won’t be able to roll back the host of protections which come from by EU legislation.

It demands that Parliament be able to scrutinise how ministers rewrite laws “to prevent backroom deals that dodge the democratic process”.

Find out more about the People’s Clause and tweet or email their MPs, urging them to back the campaign.