Government accused of 'chilling' bid to block compensation claims after Brexit

Posted On: 
11th August 2017

Ministers have been accused of trying to “water down” access to justice after Brexit by removing the ability of citizens to sue the Government for breaches of EU law. 

The UK is set to leave the European Union by the end of March 2019
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The EU Withdrawal Bill states that after the UK has quit the European Union there will be “no right in domestic law on or after exit day to damages in accordance with the rule in Francovich”.

The Francovich principle allows citizens to seek compensation from governments which have failed to implement EU directives.

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The language in the Government’s flagship bill suggested that ministers would stop residents being able to bring claims after Brexit relating to breaches that occurred when the UK was a member state of the EU.

Martha Spurrier, the director of Liberty, told The Times: “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.”

Environmental lawyer David Hart QC added: “This seems to be a blatant way of Government seeking to avoid responsibilities.

“If you take an area like pollution it means that the Government will escape any liability under the Francovich principle for past and future breaches.”

A Government spokesman told the newspaper: “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.”

Labour MP Chris Leslie has said he will challenge the Government on its plans when Parliament returns next month. 

“Ministers have repeatedly pledged not to use Brexit to undermine our rights but those warm words are not being backed up by action,” he said.  

“The wording in the Bill is so broad that it represents a fundamental watering down of rights to redress against the state and Ministers should be made to justify such a change.

“The Government should do what it said it would and ensure in law that none of our rights are lost after Brexit.”