In the House of Commons on Wednesday 18th January 2023, MPs voted against amendments to delay the Retained EU Law Bill. This means that, as it stands, the Retained EU Law Bill will come into effect on December 31st, 2023, jeopardising the standards that keep us safe.
In line with this, European Movement UK is doing everything we can to raise awareness surrounding the dangers of the bill over the coming weeks, before it comes back to the Commons for a final vote.
With this deadline in mind, on Thursday 2nd February 2023, European Movement UK hosted a webinar where supporters were given the opportunity to hear from veteran campaigners on the risks of the Retained EU Law Bill, and the best ways to campaign against it, in preparation for our Retained EU Law Action day which took place on Saturday 4th February 2023.
Speakers included Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and EMUK Vice-President, Mhairi Snowden, Director of the Human Rights Consortium Scotland, Gareth Lloyd-Johnson, Campaigns Manager for Breast Cancer UK and our very own Retained EU Law Bill expert Richard Kilpatrick, Campaigns Manager for European Movement UK.
Caroline Lucas MP discussed her work opposing the bill in Parliament and why she thinks it should be scrapped, as well as advice and arguments that she thinks work well when out campaigning against the bill. Mhairi Snowden highlighted the human rights violations of the bill and went on to give a comprehensive yet easy to grasp list on all the things the bill affects. Gareth Lloyd-Johnson gave a detailed explanation of the ways that the bill is not only affecting cancer research but the access to chemicals, scientific research and data in the UK. Richard Kilpatrick ended by going into the more specific details of the bill as well as defining the dashboard, the sunset clause and a framework bill.
The webinar also involved an open discussion between participants and speakers where a range of impressive and informed questions were asked and answered, four such questions are displayed below:
Peter Burke asked this question to Caroline Lucas and received this answer:
Q. Am I right in thinking that the bill cannot be implemented in Northern Ireland while the NIP is in place, as NI is in the EU Customs Union? Is that not likely to upset the DUP even more and make a return of the troubles more likely?
A. That is my understanding as well, and it’s interesting it has not been part of the discussions, at least not in the HOC chamber, around the NIP and so forth. But it certainly feeds into that, and just as you described it means that the chances of achieving stability there and averting the worst of the tension, we are already seeing are becoming less likely. It makes all of that tension much worse.
I don’t suppose you’re likely to get into that on the doorstep unless you’re speaking with someone that is extremely knowledgeable. But I would just end by saying that it is great to see that some people are really knowledgeable on the Retained EU Law Bill. But also, don’t worry if you aren’t, I think the most important thing to say is that there are massive risks to so many of the protections that have been so hard fought over decades. Whether that’s environment, workers’ rights, health and safety. The way the bill is being handled is just so undemocratic, the idea that it’s just left up to ministers to decide which bits they are going to keep and which bits they are going to throw away is terrible. So, I would advise sticking to these points when out campaigning as it really conveys what is at stake with this bill.
Lucy Pope asked this question to Mhairi Snowden and received this answer:
Q. Can the Scottish parliament and the Welsh Assemblies and Stormont (once back) override this law and re-enact these laws?
A. So I think that they wish they could, actually in fact I know from a Scottish Parliament point of view they wish they could. But the reality is a lot more complex than that and they are more restricted than you might imagine.
The Retained EU Law Bill is UK level legislation, and England are in effect giving themselves the power to legislate in devolved areas if they want to. But it looks very likely that the Scottish parliament will not give their consent to this bill. However, we’ve seen the Scottish Parliament (about seven times now since Brexit) not give their consent on certain things, but those things have gone ahead anyway. In that way this process is becoming less and less useful. So, because of the complexity of our constitutional situation there is very little that the Scottish parliament can do to challenge the Retained EU Law Bill.
I think some of the things they can do to approach it is by keeping as much Retained EU Law in devolved areas as possible before that cliff-edge happens, and that is definitely what they will be focusing their attention on. There is actually also legislation in Scotland called the Continuity Act that is all about trying to keep pace with the EU. But even that is difficult to retain because it’s difficult to have higher standards in one part of the UK than in another, particularly in Scotland rather than England. In many ways England sets the standards and Scotland must follow suit across lots of different areas. I’m talking about Scotland as that is what I know, but I also know a lot of the same issues apply in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Richard Fieldhouse asked this question to Gareth Lloyd-Johnson and received this answer:
Q. Could you outline some of the implications for workplace / workers' rights please?
A. I think it’s just to reiterate that point, but as other speakers said it’s slightly difficult as we don’t know exactly what laws we are going to be dealing with. But certainly, higher standards of safety for workers is not the outcome we expect. Also, the problem is as I said we are blocking ourselves out of the science community, so we won’t necessarily have the data on the effects on workers going forward. So not only are we losing what was previously known, we are being blocked out of negotiations and from data in the future. Plus if changes are made in Europe, we can take this bill as a measure that future laws will be watered down before they meet our legislation putting our workers at further risk.
John Handford asked this question to Richard Kilpatrick and received this answer:
Q. If the sunset clause is enacted, can a new bill reverse the effects by negating the first bill?
A. Yes, constitutionally yes. A new government is never bound by the previous. But we obviously need to defeat the sunset clause by 2023 first and we are leaning quite heavily on the Lords now given that that amendment did not pass at the Commons stage.
Throughout the webinar, participants showed interest in getting more involved with the next part of the ‘Save our Standards’ campaign including contacting Lords before the second reading on Monday 6th February 2023. Participants of the webinar will be happy to hear that following this discussion our team personally contacted all Lords who were down to attend the debate. This resulted in the vast majority of the 54 Lords picking apart the bill and dismissing it in its current form.
Here are a few of our favourites, you can read:
Lord Heseltine's (President of the European Movement and Deputy Prime-Minister under Marget Thatcher) response to the bill here
Baroness Ludford’s (Liberal Democrat) response to the bill here
Baroness Chapman’s (Labour) response to the bill here
Thank you again to everyone who attended the webinar, for your great questions and unique ideas on how we can take this campaign even further.
To everyone who was unable to make it you can watch the full webinar here.
Head of Grassroots Engagement EMUK