I tabled an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill to stop vital rights, freedoms and protections vanishing by the backdoor. I spoke about the amendment and that unless we have UK bodies to carry out the function of existing EU bodies, we’ll see rights, freedoms and protections disappear by the back door without anyone there to enforce them.
You can watch my speech below.
I rise to speak to new clause 37, tabled in my name and the names of many hon. Friends.
Before I turn specifically to the detail of the new clause, I would like to summarise the powers and functions of regulatory institutions. In essence, they are: monitoring and measuring compliance with legal requirements; reviewing and reporting on compliance with legal requirements; enforcing legal requirements; setting standards or targets; co-ordinating action; and publicising information. Thus we see that regulatory institutions and agencies play an absolutely central role in the proper functioning of our economy and, indeed, of our broader society. They are, as it were, the traffic lights that keep the traffic flowing around our economy, and the shields that protect our fundamental rights and freedoms.
I turn my attention to the impact that Brexit will have on the vital role that EU agencies currently play. We all know that the transition phase will, in essence, be a carbon copy of the status quo minus our representation in the EU institutions. The problem is that when we leave the EU on 29 March 2019, we will become a third country, and we will be leaving the 52 agencies that currently carry out the tasks and functions that I listed. According to research commissioned by the House of Commons Library, 16 of those 52 agencies have no provision whatever for third country participation and a further 12 allow only for observer or a vague co-operation status. That means that 28 out of the 52 EU agencies have no provision for third country participation. We are therefore facing, at the time of leaving, a yawning and very dangerous governance gap.
The purpose of my new clause is to force the Government to commit to institutional parity, meaning that all powers and functions currently relating to any freedom, right or protection that was exercised by EU agencies should continue to be carried out by an EU agency, be carried out by an appropriate existing or newly established entity or be carried out by an appropriate international entity.
Without UK institutions to take on the job of EU agencies, we will see fundamental rights, protections and regulations being removed by the back door having been rendered unenforceable. This Bill will then not be worth the paper it is written on unless it is backed up by regulatory agencies. The risks are daunting. How will we reassure businesses that wish to invest in our country if we cannot guarantee a predictable and consistent regulatory regime? How will we reassure consumers that our food hygiene standards are up to international standards? How we will we reassure people that our nuclear safety, chemicals or medicines are up to international and European standards? We can do this only if we have strong regulatory agencies to implement the terms of our legislation. I therefore commend new clause 37 to the Committee.