Lord Frost says: bypass Parliament to rewrite EU rules

Government is considering demanding powers to rewrite any and all ‘retained EU legislation’ while bypassing Parliament. If they succeed, we can expect a generation of corporate lobbyists rewriting our most important laws.

Lord Frost says:

“We will look at developing a tailored mechanism for accelerating the repeal or amendment of this retained EU law — in a way which reflects the fact that, as I have made clear, laws agreed elsewhere have intrinsically less democratic legitimacy than laws initiated by the government of this country.”

That is to say, Lord Frost wants a mechanism to bypass Parliamentary scrutiny of changes to retained EU law.

EU law is at the heart of environmental, industrial and employment regulations, as well as in the fields of consumer protection, transport, energy, safety standards for food, goods and products, culture, tourism, education and sport. In other words, we are talking about a significant part of the rules that are affecting our daily lives.

To give an example of how this would play out, think about the changes proposed to privacy laws, including GDPR and ePrivacy. In other words, the protections exploiting and discriminating against individuals on the basis of data that Government or corporations obtain about us. 

The changes the UK Government are proposing for GDPR are enormous and controversial. They are not tweaks to widget legislation. They look like delivering enormous power to corporations to shape our lives and discriminate against people with impunity, while making it very hard to enforce what rights we are left with. 

Privacy protections are being used by Uber workers to stop automated sackings, and are used to stop gambling companies from targeting gambling addicts back into their services.

The government’s policy on privacy rights risks undermining efforts to constrain platforms and monopolistic digital markets through competition law and interoperability, by decreasing trust and safety. The policy risks increasing the problems identified in the Online Safety Bill by ramping up the abuse of data and driving the incentives for the attention market higher by making exploitation of our personal profiles easier.

Placing these changes to GDPR in the hands of an executive-controlled process, led by the civil service, with political advisors and lobbyists in the driving seat, would lead swiftly to an immense democratic failure.

Replicate that across environmental, industrial and employment regulations, consumer protection, transport, energy, safety standards for food, goods and products, culture, tourism, education and sport, and you can see the enormity if the problem.

The democratic alternative to Frost’s proposal is of course going to be hard. It requires Parliament to be better equipped to deal with their new responsibilities, in order to democratise the process and hold the Executive’s proposals to account. That will need change in the House of Lords, as the revising chamber. 

However, anything less makes a mockery of Brexit and the promises made to bring democratic control over our laws. Worse still, it will fuel inequality and resentment by securing a generation of lobbyist laws to give shape to the new Britain, written expressly to benefit shareholders over the public interest.

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