“More than 70 charities, NGOs and trade unions have joined a formal alliance to scrutinise the “great repeal bill”, as major rights organisations such as Amnesty International, Liberty and Friends of the Earth say they are determined to halt a “power grab” by ministers.
Members of the alliance say it will be a platform to campaign for open and accountable lawmaking after the bill is presented. It will push for clear limits on the powers given to ministers by the bill and aim to ensure standards are maintained after the UK leaves the EU.
The alliance, which launched on Wednesday and is coordinated by Unlock Democracy, says it intends to scrutinise the legislation and offer legal and technical expertise from its members, who range from human rights lawyers to environmental scientists.
The European Union (withdrawal) bill will be the first major piece of Brexit legislation before the House of Commons, with its second reading next Thursday.
One of the most complex pieces of legislation in recent history, the bill ostensibly aims to transpose EU law on to the UK statute book via secondary legislation, which could then be gradually repealed or replaced as governments see fit.
Critics of the bill say it confers significant extra powers to ministers to make changes without parliamentary scrutiny, using so-called delegated powers.
Labour’s Hilary Benn, chair of the Brexit select committee, has previously suggested this could amount to a “blank legislative cheque”, although the government has insisted the powers will only be used to make technical corrections to make the laws translatable.
Concerns have been heightened because of the number of times ministers have used delegated powers to make highly controversial changes, including the so-called rape clause requiring women who have been raped to provide verification if they wish to claim tax credits for more than two children.
Lord Judge, the former lord chief justice, has been among those raising questions about the complexity of the repeal bill and its repercussions, calling Brexit “a legislative tsunami … the greatest challenge ever faced by our legislative processes”.
Funded by a range of charitable trusts including the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Lloyds Bank Foundation, the alliance has a permanent member of staff in place to coordinate public campaigns, although it insists it is neutral on Brexit. …”