The UK Government has agreed to give itself powers that would allow it to override Parliament on all areas covered by EU law – from justice to consumer rights - in two little noticed clauses of the draft EU withdrawal agreement.
Article 157 would require the UK and EU to set up a joint committee to oversee the withdrawal agreement, while article 159 makes this committee’s decisions binding on both the EU and UK. If the UK wrote this power into any law ratifying the treaty, it would effectively hand ministers the power to change the law in Britain at will – provided they could get the EU to agree.
Article 159 requires the decision of the committee to be by “mutual consent” between the UK and EU but makes no provision for consultation with either our Parliament or the European parliament.
Both articles in the treaty are marked up in green – indicating both the EU Commission and British Government agree to their provisions.
Commenting, Chris Leslie MP, leading supporter of Open Britain, said:
“In the referendum campaign we were told leaving the EU would be about ‘taking back control’ but it is more and more apparent that UK Ministers see this about centralising power in their hands.
“Their EU Withdrawal Bill already gives them the power to rewrite laws without reference to Parliament and now it appears they want to extend that power indefinitely through this draft treaty. Most ironically of all, they would be able to use this power if they secured the agreement of the EU for any law changes they proposed.
“They have not even discussed this idea in Parliament before they have agreed it with the European Commission. They need to now immediately come to Parliament and tell us what they think they are playing at.”
Notes to editors
The draft treaty can be seen at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/691366/20180319_DRAFT_WITHDRAWAL_AGREEMENT.pdf
Article 157 states:
1. A Joint Committee is hereby established, comprising representatives of the Union and of the United Kingdom. The Joint Committee shall be co-chaired by the Union and the United Kingdom.
- The Joint Committee shall meet at the request of the Union or the United Kingdom or at least once a year. The Joint Committee shall set its meeting schedule and its agenda by mutual consent.
- The Joint Committee shall be responsible for the implementation and application of this Agreement. The Union or the United Kingdom may refer to the Joint Committee any issue relating to the implementation, application and interpretation of this Agreement.
- The Joint Committee shall:
(a) supervise and facilitate the implementation and application of this Agreement;
(b) decide on the tasks of the specialised committees and supervise their work;
(c) seek appropriate ways and methods of preventing problems that might arise in areas covered by this Agreement or of resolving disputes that may arise regarding the interpretation and application of this Agreement;
(d) adopt its own rules of procedure, as well as rules of procedure of the specialised committees;
(e) consider any matter of interest relating to an area covered by this Agreement;
(f) adopt decisions and make recommendations as set out in Article 159;
(g) adopt amendments to this Agreement in the cases provided for in this Agreement.
- The Joint Committee may:
(a) delegate responsibilities to the specialised committees, except those referred to in points (b), (d), (f) and (g) of paragraph 4;
(b) establish other specialised committees than those established by Article 158 in order to assist it in the performance of its tasks;
(c) change the tasks assigned to the specialised committees or dissolve any of those committees; and
(d) take such other action in the exercise of its functions as decided by the Union and the United Kingdom.
- The Joint Committee shall issue an annual report on the functioning of this Agreement.
Article 159 states:
1. The Joint Committee shall, for the purposes of this Agreement, have the power to adopt decisions in respect of all matters for which this Agreement so provides and make appropriate recommendations to the Union and the United Kingdom.
- The decisions adopted by the Joint Committee shall be binding on the Union and the United Kingdom, and the Union and the United Kingdom shall implement them. They shall have the same legal effect as this Agreement.
- The Joint Committee shall adopt its decisions and make its recommendations by mutual consent.