Retaining Enhanced Protection

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 17th January 2018.

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Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour/Co-operative, Swansea West 4:00 pm, 17th January 2018

This Bill is essentially about cutting and pasting the laws, protections and rights of the EU into British law, and the fundamental problems are that clause 9 gives sweeping powers to Ministers to strike out those laws, protections and rights and, quite simply, that we do not have the institutions to enforce those rights. In essence, new clauses 10 and 14 would ensure institutions are in place to enforce those individual, consumer, environmental and workers’ rights and protections.

The European Food Safety Authority, which responded to the horsemeat scandal, or similar agencies should be in place to prevent genetically modified, hormone-impregnated or antibiotic-impregnated meat, and so on, from coming from America. The European Chemicals Agency is charged with protecting us through REACH—the regulation, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals regulation—which prevents, for example, asbestos from being sold here when they can be sold in America. The European Environment Agency underpins our air quality and is taking the British Government to court. It has delivered blue flag beaches instead of low-tar beaches, and it is involved in ensuring biodiversity, etc. Euratom regulates nuclear power and research across Europe, including Britain. The European Medicines Agency ensures Britain can develop and sell drugs across Europe.

It is critical that institutions are in place to continue those processes, yet the White Paper said, for example, that protected habitats will continue without enforcement agencies after Brexit. In other words, we do not know there will be a guarantee that institutions will be in place to enforce the rights and protections we currently enjoy, which is why new clauses 10 and 14 are important.

We also know that Britain does not have the ready capacity to enforce rights and protections in the way those big institutions do. Enforcement would basically mean fining ourselves for not fulfilling air quality standards, which is meaningless.

New clause 14 essentially says that those rights and protections should also be instilled in new trade agreements, which the Government are hurtling ahead in agreeing in secret. Such rights and protections should therefore be frontloaded, so that people can be secure in the knowledge that Ministers will not sign off agreements that are perhaps in breach of domestic law and that will then be imposed by arbitration courts, whether through investor-state dispute settlements or through the investment court system.