The Repeal Bill Alliance: How you can help protect rights and standards post-Brexit

Jane Thomas is the Co-ordinator of the Repeal Bill Alliance – a cross party, cross sector alliance of civil society groups working collaboratively on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill

There is no escaping the fact that, wherever you turn, Brexit is dominating our news; not just the dry political landscape, but much of our day-to-day lives.

The thing is, this is important to all of us, irrespective of where we live and what we do. The EU (withdrawal) bill may not have the snappiest of titles but it is probably one of the most important bills that parliament has had to legislate for over 40 years. Ironically in fact since we joined the European Union in 1973.

What does the bill do?

The bill repeals the European Communities Act 1972, although the change only comes into force on the day that Brexit takes place, following the result of the EU referendum in June 2016, when the nation voted to leave.

There is significant controversy around the bill, both in terms of what it leaves out – the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – and what is included: the Henry VIII powers. These give government ministers the power to make changes to retained EU law, with very limited parliamentary scrutiny.

The complexity of the task cannot be underestimated. This includes moving the entire body of EU law into UK statute book which is further complicated by the swirl of political controversy surrounding the bill. The government can only maintain its power with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), while there remain significant disagreements among Conservative ministers and the wider party over what Brexit should look like.

The significance for the voluntary and community sector, for communities and for families up and down the country, is that EU laws reach into all parts of our lives. It may be clean beaches, it may be spending on roads, supporting vulnerable children, rights at work, or environmental protections. It has set the bar high for food safety and standards, the use of chemicals, and the EU has been a significant vehicle for collaboration on research.

What is the Repeal Bill Alliance?

Last summer a number of funders and civil society organisations got together to try and map out the likely impacts for civil society – and how best to respond to the changes posed with the EU (withdrawal) bill. The result was the formation of the Repeal Bill Alliance, a loose alliance of civic society made up of large and small campaign and advocacy organisations covering sectors as diverse as human rights, the environment, equality, democracy, food, farming, trade, consumer and workers’ rights and further education.

The common denominator is that all have an interest in the bill and want to ensure individual and collective voices are heard. The Alliance takes no view per se on the referendum or on Brexit. Its role and purpose is to ensure​ that the best possible deal is struck for organisations, their members, and wider civic society. We also want to make sure that civil society organisations understand the process and what is entailed as we leave the EU and for the sectors to be in the best possible position to advocate and articulate their interests.

How you can get involved

The focus has been twofold. Firstly, through lobbying we want to ensure the following broad principles are embedded in the bill:

  • Open and accountable law-making
  • The maintenance of a high standards UK
  • ​Protection of hard-won devolution​ deals

We also want to ensure as much as possible that campaigners and civil society organisations are engaged and have some opportunities to try and influence or shape the outcomes in order to protect the above principles as much as they can.

To this end we have produced a free Campaigns Toolkit which includes tips and tools for how to improve the bill and protect rights and standards.

We also continue to produce weekly newsletters to update our members on what is happening with the bill and the work of the Alliance. Sign up here. You can also read a copy of our latest bulletin.

Your organisation can join the Alliance here.

Over the coming months we will be hosting a series of webinars with guest speakers to inform, engage and listen to the concerns of civil society. See available dates and sign up

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