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Endings

Well, this year of infamy is finally lurching towards its end. I don’t think too many of us will be sad to see the back of 2020.

With it, though, we have to also say a final goodbye to Britain’s membership of the European Union. I don’t think too many of us will be happy about that. Even people who are pleased about it now will realise over time that leaving is a huge mistake.

At least with the exit agreement in place, we shouldn’t see the immediate shortages and queues at the ports that we feared. That agreement is problematic, though.

To get an example of its dangers, I refer you to David Allen Green’s Law and Policy Blog. Yesterday’s post is entitled ‘The Bill implementing the Trade and Cooperation Agreement is an exercise in the Government taking power from Parliament,’ and in it he says:

The draft bill is complex and deals with several specific technical issues, such as criminal records, security, non-food product safety, tax and haulage, as well as general implementation provisions.

Each of these specific technical issues would warrant a bill, taking months to go through the normal parliamentary process.

But instead they will be whizzed and banged through in a single day, with no real scrutiny, as the attention of parliamentarians will (understandably) be focused on the general implementation provisions, which are in Part 3 of the draft bill.

[…]

This provision will empower ministers (or the devolved authorities, where applicable) to make regulations with the same effect as if those regulations were themselves acts of parliament.

In other words: they can amend laws and repeal (or abolish) laws, with only nominal parliamentary involvement.

There are some exceptions (under clause 31(4)), but even with those exceptions, this is an extraordinarily wide power for the executive to legislate at will.

These clauses are called ‘Henry VIII’ clauses and they are as notorious among lawyers as that king is notorious in history.

Again, this means that parliament (and presumably the devolved assemblies, where applicable) will be bypassed, and what is agreed between Whitehall and Brussels will be imposed without any further parliamentary scrutiny.

The whole piece is worth reading (and note the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy references).

Take back control, right enough: take it back from the elected representatives of the people, and give it to the executive.

2020 made 2016 look like 2012. 2021 offers hope to the world as the Covid vaccines roll out, and hope for America as Trump is rolled out of the White House. But things still look decidedly dodgy here in the UK.

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