22:43 GMT04 July 2020
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    Campaign groups are warning that the planned Great Repeal Bill, expected to be put before the British Parliament within days, now that the UK has formally begin the process of Brexit, could bring powers back from Brussels, but hand enormous "Henry VIII" powers to bureaucrats in London, Sputnik has been told.

    The so-called Great Repeal Bill is intended to abolish the European Communities Act 1972 ending the applicability of EU law in the UK and to place the entire body of existing EU law on to the UK statute book.

    However, campaign groups say that — in bringing back powers from Brussels to London — a vast amount of powers will be handed to bureaucrats, rather than to the democratically elected parliament.

    ​"We don't have the luxury of sitting around and lamenting the fact that Theresa May has triggered Article 50, as the fight is now on to prevent the government from granting themselves an unprecedented set of powers to pick and choose which laws suit them and which don't," Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now told Sputnik.

    "Using 'Henry VIII powers' could mean ministers making significant changes to important legislation without parliamentary approval — something which many countries would deem unconstitutional.

    "No one is denying that the legal process of coming out of the EU is going to be tricky, but we need to make sure that the government doesn't use the deep divisions created by Brexit to begin sweeping away important safeguards around employment rights, consumer standards and the environment. Parliament needs to wake up and take its role seriously," Dearden said.

    'Pick and Mix'

    Global Justice Now and the group called Another Europe is Possible have released a legal briefing called The Great Repeal Bill: Addressing Unaccountable Power, which lays out the threat that the bill poses to UK democracy.

    The groups say that the bill, as currently proposed, allows for considerable use of the discretionary powers of officials and minimizes the potential for democratic scrutiny. These gaps would enable the government to "pick and mix" the EU norms that survive and are scrapped in the bill. In other words, officials in London could take on the powers that Brussels bureaucrats had, without the oversight of parliament.

    ​"The Great Repeal Bill is almost unprecedented in scope, form, and lasting effects. It has the potential to empower the government to effectively legislate without the consent of Parliament. So far, there has been an almost total absence of transparency in the government's approach," Sam Fowles, the author of the briefing and a spokesperson for Another Europe is Possible said.

    "If it is handled with transparency and accountability, then the Great Repeal Bill presents a chance to come together and improve the way this country is governed. But that is not how it has been handled so far. It's up to the government, MPs, and civil society to come together to put that right. Otherwise a bill aimed at 'taking back control' will actually represent the disenfranchisement of ordinary voters on a historic scale," he added.


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