Theresa May’s Brexit powergrab?

What kind of Brexit we get in 2019 will shape all of our lives for decades to come. That’s why we’re worried by Theresa May’s plan to freeze Parliament out of the negotiations.

In June Britain voted to ‘take back control’ and return sovereignty to Parliament, but Theresa May seems determined to keep all the control over what Brexit will actually mean. Last weekend brought us the dramatic announcement that Theresa May plans to freeze out Parliament completely from the process. She plans to deny MPs a vote on triggering Article 50 and on the terms of the negotiations, saying those who want Parliament to debate it “are not standing up for democracy, they’re trying to subvert it”.

It appears the Prime Minister is using Brexit as a cover to redefine what democracy means to hoard powers that should rightfully rest with Parliament. We should all be aware of the precedent being set here.

After 33 million people took part in the vote, the debate over how it’s implemented should not be limited to a handful of powerful people. Whatever you feelings on June’s referendum result, it showed that people are angry, feel politicians aren’t listening and wanted to take power back from elites. Theresa May trying to wrest control over the most dramatic and complex constitutional change in living memory flies in the face of the message sent by the referendum.

We know the public don’t trust the government to handle Brexit on their own. A YouGov poll this week showed 50% of people think May is doing a bad job preparing for Brexit, with just 16% approving. Compared to the Prime Ministers’ overall ratings this shows a clear desire for a more transparent debate about what Brexit means. For Unlock Democracy, this means elected MPs who can be voted out by the public if they get it wrong, must be involved.

While the public voted to leave the European Union, they didn’t vote for any particular type of exit. It’s Parliament’s job to scrutinise our government, and engaging with MPs is the main way voters have to make their views heard on what Brexit should mean. The Prime Minister sidelining Parliament in the name of democracy is in fact doing the exact opposite, discarding the views of everyone but her government and those with privileged access to it. Ironically as things stand, the European Parliament is set to have a greater role in the negotiations than the UK Parliament!

The public did not vote to take back control only for it to be hoarded by Theresa May’s government.

We’re already seeing the risks of the government treating Brexit as a blank cheque. Plans for the Prime Minister’s so-called “Great Repeal Bill” are rumoured to grant Ministers sweeping powers to scrap decades old rights, protections and regulations with the flick of a pen. Love or hate the EU, the environmental, consumer, employment, safety and other rules currently in UK law were reached via an established process with clearly defined powers. If this proposal goes ahead we’re set to see an enormous transfer of power from elected politicians to an already over powerful the Executive.

There have always been few formal limits on government power in the UK, if huge areas of law are handed to Ministers to tinker with or repeal on a whim, this makes change even more urgent. And with corporate lobbyists lining up to take advantage of the ‘Brexit bonanza’, this raises serious concerns about big money being able to take advantage of these new powers behind closed doors.

This means lobbying transparency, scrutinising big money in politics, and imposing limits on government power are now more important than ever.

Sign our petition for Theresa May to give MPs a say in the Brexit deal.