Our Government is exceptionally good at saying one thing and doing another. It excels at issuing rules for all of us that it then doesn’t appear to follow itself. It’s cognitive dissonance played out at a national level.
So now the Government is promising a new bill to capitalise on our “Brexit freedoms”, it’s totally unsurprising that in fact it looks like it will actually reduce our freedoms to hold the government to account.
The Government has been desperately trying to distract from the ‘partygate’ scandal with a series of populist policy announcements. Its latest announcement comes in the form of a “Benefits of Brexit” report, which outlines what they say Brexit has done for us so far, and highlights how the Government intends to capitalise upon this further.
As you might expect, the report is full of overblown claims and blustering rhetoric (what, Boris Johnson’s government, blustering?!). It talks about having improved NHS services and patient safety without providing any evidence for its claims - and without recognising that improvements to healthcare services have nothing to do with whether Britain is part of the EU.
It lauds the creation of the Turing Scheme, which replaced Erasmus and allows students to study abroad for a year. But it conveniently omits the fact that UK students studying abroad in EU countries are now no longer able to take advantage of favourable EU member rates and could be subject to prohibitively expensive tuition fees.
It promotes the UK’s new Shared Prosperity Fund which is meant to contribute towards the reduction of regional inequality. But on the same day that the Brexit report was released, an investigation found that this new fund fell far below the amount of funding provided by the EU Regional Development Fund it replaced.
But it’s not the exaggerations and the empty promises that are the worst thing. It’s not the grand claims of cutting red tape when there is more red tape than ever, caused by Brexit. It’s not the excitable slogans about “levelling-up”, despite the fact that Brexit has left the UK poorer and without adequate replacements for EU funding and EU-wide programmes and opportunities.
What we need to be most worried about is buried deep in the report, as things so often are with this Government.
The Government says it wants to use Brexit as an opportunity to ‘take back control’ of UK legislation. In effect, this appears to mean watering down EU standards intended to protect our rights, health and welfare here in the UK.
Workers rights, environmental standards, food quality benchmarks - all of these have a minimum threshold in EU law which member states must abide by. With the imperative to stick to these rules gone, it looks likely that the UK is going to undermine the high standards that we have become used to. Dominic Raab is already talking about overhauling the Human Rights Act and our Free Trade Agreement with Australia looks set to weaken British animal welfare standards.
This is no good thing - and what’s worse is overhauls like these will happen with increasing regularity and ease. Because it seems from the report that the Government also wants to avoid the need for parliamentary consent.
The report talks about how changes to laws currently have to take place through primary legislation - that is, by a new law introduced to Parliament and debated and voted on by MPs and Lords. But the report implies that this needs to end, so changes can be made through secondary legislation, speeding up the process.
Secondary legislation doesn’t necessarily require parliamentary scrutiny, and sometimes doesn’t even need a vote by MPs. The Government wants to make significant changes to the law and bypass Parliament in the process. Without Parliament to hold it to account, the Government has calculated that it will be pretty much unassailable. This is yet again an assault on our democracy, much like we’ve seen with the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill; the Elections Bill and many other recent pieces of legislation.
So this is what Brexit has brought us. Instead of much promised freedoms and prosperity, this Brexit will be an enabler of authoritarianism. Brexit is the opposite of freedom - it marks a dismantling of our democracy and a deliberate bonfire of the rights and freedoms we once enjoyed.
Because without our freedoms, we will not be able to challenge the Government. We will not be able to make changes we want or deserve. We will be mired in a series of never-ending crises, without the means to turn our fortunes around.
Regardless of whether you voted to leave or remain, this Government's Brexit makes a mockery of the promises that were made.
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