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No Triggering of Article 50 Until Our Rights are Protected.

Nigel Johnson  •  Sunday 11th December 2016  •    7 comments  • 

Proposal code: MM-2016-12-188

Do Not Allow Article 50 to be Triggered Before the Transfer into UK Law of All EU Derived Environmental, Worker and Consumer Protections is Guaranteed by Statute.

The Tories have (vaguely) promised to transpose environmental, worker and consumer protections currently derived from our membership of the EU into UK law by their Great Repeal Act, which they intend to pass before we actually leave the EU.

However, there are, of course, lots of reasons not to trust the Tories. The Government wants to leave itself wriggle room to change “minor” laws as part of its Brexit negotiations, without needing to pass a bill through Parliament. It will be the Tories themselves who will be defining the meaning of “minor”. David Davies, the Brexit Secretary, has also stated that “EU law will be transposed into domestic law, wherever practical, on exit day”, so it seems likely that the Tories will also be reserving to themselves the right to define what is and isn't “practical”. Finally, some Tory MPs have already proposed that there should an automatic “sunshine clause” on the EU laws transposed into UK law: in other words, after a certain interval, those laws would be automatically repealed, unless explicitly renewed by Act of Parliament.

Unfortunately, once Article 50 is triggered, our actual exit from the EU, and therefore repeal of all these EU derived protections, is likely to become unstoppable, without any need for any further Parliamentary assent. That will leave us with no hope of saving our environmental, worker and consumer protections other than “trusting” to the Tories and the “transposition” of EU law into UK law apparently proposed by their worryingly named “Great Repeal Act”.

Whether or not Article 50, once invoked, can be legally revoked, i.e. whether or not the exit process could then ever legally be stopped, is one of the key arguments being contested in the Supreme Court at the time of writing. However that particular legal point is ever resolved (and it may never be put beyond possible dispute) the upshot is that once Article 50 is triggered, the exit process would be extremely difficult to stop. Triggering Article 50 therefore means that all the worker, consumer and environmental protections we currently derive from the EU would be consigned to inevitable oblivion within two years. The only hope for saving those protections would be to trust the Tories and their “Great Repeal Act”.

It would clearly be madness to trust the Tory Government on this point. These are the Tories who promised no “top-down reorganisation of the NHS”, only to, months later, introduce a re-organisation of the NHS so large it could be “seen from space”. These are the Tories who promised “we're all in it together.” These are the Tories who could only keep their promise that, if we accepted austerity, we would have jam tomorrow by redefining the meaning of “jam”. The Government's currently proposed sequence of steps within what exists of their Brexit plan is a trap intended to allow the ultimate “neoliberal” “deregulation” of our economy. We will be waving goodbye to limits on working hours, on a right to paid leave, to clean rivers and beaches, and much else besides.

Before Article 50 is even triggered we must have an Act of Parliament guaranteeing that all the EU laws providing worker, consumer and environmental protections will be automatically transposed into UK law upon us leaving the EU.

 

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Leigh  • 

I find that the distrust in the political process, including the Labour Party is so very, very high that I would not be surprised if Labour would never recover its reputation in key parts of the country if it adopted the citizen Owen approach of saying, sorry, "I know best about what your interests are, and I am telling you that should not be entitled to leave these institutions who you delusionarily believe has not been on your side.

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Nigel Johnson  •  Author  • 

Hi Leigh,
The proposal is neutral about whether or not we leave the EU. All it aims to acheive is that, should we do so, we do not lose all the worker, environmental and consumer protections that we have acquired as a result of our membership over many years. If we aren't extremely careful the Tories will clearly use this opportunity to blow away all the green "crap" and pursue a race to the bottom in terms of employment rights, including health and safety (which they love to sneer at). Thye may even use any Brexit related economic woes to justify the need for us to become "more competitive", and therefore use that as a pretext to renege on any commitmennts they have made hitherto.
Commiting to keeping these rights before trade negotiations start would actually help those negotations, as the EU side would be more inclined to feel we will act in good faith, and won't simply attempt to outcompete mainland Europe by dropping most of our rights and protections.

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Leigh  • 

Could you explain the neutrality argument a little more please? I do not understand why placing preconditions of the triggering of article 50 does not potentially obstruct leaving the EU. If we place preconditions in the way of our support for leaving the EU and those preconditions are not met then we do not support leaving the EU do we? It is highly unlikely that Teresa May would meet any of our preconditions, why would she feel the need to do so? whatever are her intentions to challenge Labour protection rights and environmental matters in the future. Labour do not have any leverage on what the Tories do, do they?

The failure of Labour to honour the referendum result, whatever are perceived disadvantages (and they are only perceived by some, poor record. commentators), would make Labour look as untrustworthy as the Lib. Dems. In the working class areas where I am familiar it would take 20 years to build back that lost trust.

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Nigel Johnson  •  Author  • 

It's neutral in that it doesn't take a pro or anti position on leaving the EU. It is agnostic on that point.
As to whether it would make leaving the EU harder or easier it would make it more difficult for the Govt to trigger article 50, but it would make subsequent negotiations, I think, easier. All the "social" stuff would be out of the way, and we would have placed ourselves (barring further primary legislation/Acts of Parliament) on a level playing field with the rest of Europe. Those negotiations could therefore concentrate on trade, which is arguably exactly waht they should concentrate upon. Also, the govt would have already met its "promises" under its Great Repeal Act, so could focus its efforts on the Brexit negotiation, rather than having, in the midst of a complex negotiation, also have to work out how to transfer EU derived rights into UK law. If the Govt tries to do that rights would be lost or compromised even if they were acting on good faith, which of course they are not.
If we don't adopt this stance though, then most of our protections will be lost very quickly. There will be real and severe impacts on the lives of ordinary people. In my own case, for example, I could be facing a TUPE situation over the next couple of years, and my family and myself could be very adversely affected if TUPE's gone. Consider other examples: those in risky trades such as construction would likely see lives lost as a result of weakened health and safety. These are not abstract considerations.
It's a question of what we want to risk: delaying Article 50 (while making subsequent negotiations simpler) or losing all these hard-won rights.
A delayed Article 50 is also safer for the human race. If the UK does this just a few weeks before the French elections then I dread to think of the consequences. Possibly Brexit will be moot as they'll be no EU left to Brexit from. In a nuclear armed world doing anything to stir up nationalism is insanely irresponsible (I always thought the Tories would have terrible affects on our society, but that would contribute to setting hard nationalistic dominoes falling in a way that threatens the continuation of everyone on the planet was something I didn't anticipate in even my worst nightmares!).

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Nigel Johnson  •  Author  • 
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Nigel Johnson  •  Author  • 

We can only get the amendments we need to the triggering of article 50 if we adopt the position of opposing it if those amendments aren't there. Any other approach is doomed to fail from the outset. Therefore I would advise signing this open letter:
https://docs.google.com/a/haygrove.somerset.sch.uk/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScogZo16rn3niWzXROLz6M6sRI_dhqUhX3ENTE2irRTG7183A/viewform?fbzx=-5550201939452641000

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Nigel Johnson  •  Author  • 

Remember, it's about a movement not a man.

We need a smooth transition to a new left wing leader to preserve Jeremy's legacy of a massively increased and engaged membership alongside a Labour Party that actually lives up to the claim on its membership card of being Socialist.

We cannot confront the issues of our time, including an imminent wave of AI led automation, without using Socialist ideas. If we don't control the means we need to live and make a living then we will be usually exploited by those who do. It's as simple as that. Only Socialism, in its various forms, seeks to address the harsh realities of economic power and powerlessness. Without the problem of economic power being solved it is increasingly obvious that even meaningful political democracy cannot be sustained.

Perhaps that new leader will be Clive Lewis, or perhaps not, it's too early to say, but if we don't act, and at least have the conversation, then someone else will.

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