Humanists UK has joined leading charities, trade unions, and NGOs – including Amnesty International, the Fawcett Society, Unlock Democracy, and Liberty – as part of the Fix the Bill coalition, a new campaign group urging MPs to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill so as not to give unchecked power over to Governments.
As part of the EU Withdrawal Bill, also referred to as the Great Repeal Bill, the UK Government is asking Parliament to give it the power to rewrite laws that originally came from EU legislation without consulting Parliament. This power would even apply to the EU Withdrawal Bill itself, permitting Governments to rewrite the Bill after it has been passed. Altogether, this proposal would give Government the power to pass the equivalent of new Acts of Parliament without a vote.
As a non-partisan charity, Humanists UK took no position in the EU referendum debate and instead engaged with the issues of the day by publishing three articles from humanists who identified with Leave and three who identified with Remain, arguing for a higher quality of public debate.
Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:
‘The powers awarded to ministers in the Great Repeal Bill are historically unprecedented and, in its present form, the text of the Bill contains no meaningful limitations on how they can be used. They give absolute power to write laws over to the Government, on the mere promise that these will not be misused. However, such guarantees are not contained in the Bill itself. We are particularly concerned given that aspects of EU law relate to equality legislation, for example the European Employment Directive, which prevents arbitrary discrimination on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, or gender in employment.
‘When power grabs have occurred in countries around the world, for example in India in 1975 or Venezuela in 2000, humanists, as champions of Enlightenment values and liberal democracy have always opposed the sweeping expansion of the executive and the sidelining of the people’s representatives. We should expect nothing less of ourselves if a power grab takes place in our own country.
‘The ethical stance many groups are taking to some of the powers contained in this Bill is not in any way, shape, or form about Brexit itself, which will happen regardless of whether or how this Bill is passed. We are concerned simply with the particulars of this Bill.
‘And while it’s true that Parliament faces the greatest constitutional challenge in its history, we’re confident that MPs can, if they choose to, construct a fair, transparent, and accountable mechanism for amending and correcting imported EU law which does not grant sweeping powers to the state. This may even improve the quality of our democracy.’
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.
Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association:https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/