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Brexit and Europe Brexit and Europe

Bring law-making power closer to the people

Last updated: 02:53pm 14 October 2019

As powers return from the EU, we will be able to determine the level best placed to take decisions on these issues, ensuring that power sits closer to the people of the United Kingdom than ever before.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.37

Our verdict

Currently EU law overrides UK law, so this is about how much control and influence we will have over our own law-making powers after we leave the EU. The specific promise being made here is that law-making powers will be “closer to the people of the United Kingdom than ever before”. Remember that bit – “than ever before”.

The challenge with this policy is finding a way to measure how close law-making powers are to the people. Let’s focus on this first.

Technically, just by transferring law-making ‘supremacy’ back to the UK brings power closer to UK citizens, simply because one of the layers have been removed (in this case, the EU). Equally you could argue that whether powers are in Westminster or Brussels make little difference to UK citizens, and that moving more powers to national (devolved) governments would be more effective in bringing power closer to citizens.

In addition to the movement of law-making powers – what about our perception of law-making powers. How much control and influence do we feel we have, and can we measure that?

The UK in a Changing Europe (UKCE), an independent research project, has produced a report setting out four economic tests of a successful Brexit, one of which was ‘control’. In the report they describe control as “not just about the formal sovereignty of Westminster, but more broadly about whether individuals and communities feel that they have a genuine say in the decisions that affect them.” UKCE have also developed a number of indicators for measuring control, and told us:

“Two of these were taken from the Hansard Society’s annual Audit of Political Engagement, which contains questions relevant to the public’s sense of influence. The 2017 round showed that 32% of respondents thought they could influence the way the UK was run, whereas 38% felt they couldn’t. Similarly, 16% of respondents felt influential, with 41% desiring more involvement in politics. Tracking these questions into the 2018 round and beyond will give a useful indication of public views on their closeness to law-making powers.

So, by tracking perceived influence through survey data as well as the actual movement of powers, we will measure the degree to which the UK people are closer to law-making powers after Brexit.

Now we have a way of measuring this, let’s look at progress.

The mechanism by which powers are being transferred to the UK from the EU is via the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. This passed through parliament in June 2018, though not without controversy as devolved governments argue that this law represents a power-grab by the UK government – taking power further away from local regions.

For now, given the EU (Withdrawal) Act of 2018 has been passed, we can say this policy is ‘in progress’. We will continue to track the survey data and consider the arguments between Westminster and the devolved governments following our exit from the EU. We will only be able to consider this ‘done’ if we can find significant evidence that powers are not just closer to the people, but closer “than ever before”. Follow this policy for updates.

Bring the details closer…

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There's always room for debate

We’re serious about providing clear, up-to-date, non-partisan information. We focus on being consistent and fair in how we reach our verdicts, and always explain our reasoning. But there is always room for debate. So if you see it differently, we’d love you to tell us why. Or even better, submit an edit.