I’ve largely stayed off politics on the blog the past few months but today, a week after the Article 50 notification and the ‘triggering’ of Brexit, it seems timely to raise an ongoing threat to our natural world this poses.
As part of the process, the Government is proposing a ‘Great Repeal Bill’ that, rather than repealing anything, simply transfers all the relevant EU legislation into UK law. So far, so sensible.
The problem is, this cannot work in isolation. Legislation will then have to be rewritten to ensure it is fit-for-purpose. This is, potentially, a massive job, especially if each piece of legislation has to go through Parliament. So the government has suggested giving themselves what some have referred to as ‘Henry VIII’ powers, allowing them to make technical changes to bills without consultation or any real oversight.
This is hugely problematic, and a symptom of chasing an arbitrary deadline as opposed to taking time to do things right. In theory it should be fine, as the opposition parties would still see what was being done and be able to raise issues. But in practice, when the three main opposition parties have their focus elsewhere, it creates a profound risk to hard-won rights and protections.
It has been suggested people raising this concern are just fear-mongering, but the government’s own example of a ‘technical’ change was one that would allow oil companies to drill without consulting local communities!
This would be a worrying and undemocratic move regardless of who was in power, but when the party in power have previously stated issues with the Birds and Habitats Directives (pieces of legislation backed by around 70% of the UK population), as well as various protections for clean air, clean beaches, hygiene standards, workers rights, maternity and paternity leave, statutory sick pay, and a whole range of other good stuff, it is even more concerning.
The media are content to stoke the ongoing discord over the long-past result when not dragging up phantom jingoistic conflicts over Gibraltar, all of which contributes to a mood where we all have our eyes off the real issues. Don’t for a moment assume that is accidental. It’s the classic misdirection known to any illusionist. Get your audience to look to your left, and they don’t see your right-hand pocket the ball.
Brexit is happening, it is important it is for all of us, and it is critical we all hold the government to account on the issues that matter.