British citizens will no longer be able to sue the Government for breaking the law after Brexit, under far-reaching new plans being drawn up in Whitehall.
A clause in the Brexit bill set to be debated next month means Britons could lose the ability to seek compensation or damages over issues including workers’ rights, environmental policy and business regulation.
The Government can currently be sued under The European Court of Justice’s 1991 Francovich ruling. It stipulates that a member state is liable if an individual or business has been damaged because of a failure by the country to implement EU law.
But a clause in the repeal bill says: “There is no right in domestic law on or after exit day to damages in accordance with the rule in Francovich.”
The Government issued a statement saying individuals would retain the ability to receive damages or compensation for losses caused by breaching the law, but did not explain how they could still do this.
Experts have warned that this could mean the Government escapes liability for past breaches of EU law, when it was a member of the bloc.
Director of human rights group Liberty Martha Spurrier, said: “This chilling clause, buried deep in the bill’s small print, would quietly take away one of the British people’s most vital tools for defending their rights.
“Putting the Government above the law renders our legal protections meaningless. It exposes a clear agenda to water down our rights after Brexit – and shows exactly why the Human Rights Act is going to be all the more essential after we leave.
“We cannot trust a handful of ministers with our hard-won rights and freedoms — the chasm between what they are promising in their soundbites and what they’re putting down in law is growing wider by the day.
“We need more than words — we need a formal commitment in the Repeal Bill, in the black and white letter of the law, that the British people will not leave the EU with fewer rights than we have now.”
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Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake described the clause as a “shameless” attempt to strip people of their rights. “Citizens must be able to hold the government to account when it breaks the rules,” he said.
A Government spokesman said: “The right to Francovich damages is linked to EU membership. The government therefore considers that this will no longer be relevant after we leave.
“After exit, under UK law it will still be possible for individuals to receive damages or compensation for any losses caused by breach of the law.”