The Times newspaper has learnt that British citizens and companies will lose the right to sue the Government for breaking the law after the UK withdraws from the European Union.
Since 1991, citizens in the EU have been able to sue individual Member States for damages if their rights were infringed by the failure of a country to implement EU law. However, under the proposed terms of the European Union Repeal Bill, many areas of law such as environment, employment rights and business regulations will no longer be subject to financial redress through the UK courts. At least one lobby group is preparing a case on the Government’s failure to enforce EU air pollution standards over the seven years: thousands of potential claimants living in areas with high nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution could lose their right to sue once the repeal bill is passed in Westminster.
Under the Francovich ruling, any Member State can be sued if an individual or business has been damaged as a result of a “sufficiently serious” failure of a country to implement EU law. However, the EU Repeal Bill, which to be debated in Parliament in September, currently states “there is no right in domestic law on or after exit day to damages in accordance with the rule in Francovich.” Last night the Government claimed that individuals would still be able to sue the Government after Brexit without providing any indication of how this system would work: “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.” Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty, a civil rights group, has heavily criticized the government, saying, “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.”