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Today Facebook asked Parliament to exempt it from the impact of the Retained EU Law bill or it could stop them operating in the UK.
Here's what we learned today about this bill:
The Government is locking in lower standards...
One of the most damaging provisions of this Bill is that it prevents us from replacing any laws it abolishes with any new rules which would raise standards or increase protections - instead, it locks in the Conservative obsession with deregulation at all costs. Labour tabled amendments to undo this damaging provision and ensure that this legislation doesn’t prevent the UK from raising standards now that it is out of the European Union. Instead, they rejected these efforts out of hand and voted down these protections.
In Downing Street we (can't) trust...so much for taking back control!
At every stage of this Bill, Ministers have asked us to trust them. They have argued we don't need to legislate to protect workers rights - just trust that they won't roll them back. We don't need enforceable commitments on the environment - just to trust them. That’s why this Bill hands sweeping powers to Ministers without any meaningful scrutiny from democratically elected Parliamentarians. Again today they voted down proposals to restore parliamentary scrutiny of what they do with the powers this bill gives. This highlights how, rather than taking back control for the people of this country, the Government empowering Downing Street.
Ministers need to come clean on what this bill means for Northern Ireland…
This Bill rips up the delicate balance between EU and UK law which has existed since we left the EU, and is particularly important in Northern Ireland where both EU and UK law are applied as part of the Good Friday Agreement. The Government admits there will be examples whereby EU law will remain, but wouldn’t set out how this will be decided and by whom. A change of this magnitude - which could disrupt the lives of everyone in Northern Ireland - deserves to be fully explained and justified by the Government. Instead, the Minister dodged questions on how this bill affects the Northern Ireland Protocol and spent less than three minutes rejecting the proposals that should set out what impact their plans will have on the people of Northern Ireland before putting them into action.
It will be a lawyers bonanza…
This Bill gives courts in the UK sweeping powers to depart from existing case law – something the Office for Environmental Protection says is going to lead to avoidable, costly legal proceedings as well as lower levels of environmental protection. As lawyers giving evidence to Parliament have warned, this will mean justice will be driven by those who have the means to bring lengthy court cases to decide when these powers are used. Labour put forward proposals to ensure that legal certainty, clarity and Parliamentary sovereignty should be considered when making such significant changes which the Minister rejected out of hand.
And we could see the end of Facebook in the UK…
In evidence submitted to the Committee, Facebook have made clear the impact they think it could have on their continued operation - potentially forcing them to pull out of the UK altogether. They have asked for Ministers to exempt existing e-commerce rules from being deleted by the bill which they argue have made it possible for them and other social media platforms to carry on- whilst many of us wish to see social media companies being held to account for the use of their platforms, closing them down by default is not the way to secure this change.
You can find a briefing on this Bill here and you will be able to find the full transcripts of these evidence sessions here. The next session of the Bill will be on Tuesday 29th November.