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Brexit could stop groups from suing the government

This news post is almost 7 years old

Fears have been highlighted over a clause in the European Union Repeal Bill

Britons could lose their right to sue the government for breaking the law under Brexit plans.

Campaigners have highlighted that ministers could avoid challenges over air pollution under the plans, mentioned in a clause of the European Union Repeal Bill.

The new law could hit challenges which are being prepared for the government failing to meet EU air standards.

Under the current Francovich ruling, any member state can be sued if there has been damage to an individual or business as a result of a serious failure to implement EU law.

However a clause in the new bill states: “There is no right in domestic law on or after exit day to damages in accordance with the rule in Francovich.”

Frances Lawson, a barrister who is preparing to bring a Francovich case against the government over air pollution, said: “We are trying to move the case forward as quickly as we possibly can... If the government means what it says about ensuring equivalence in environmental protection after Brexit, they need to come up with a way to give people a similar form of redress.”

Anna Ashworth-Jones, Greenpeace UK clean air campaigner, said: "The government's failure to meet the EU's air pollution standards for the last seven years is bad enough but preventing people affected from seeking justice is deeply cynical and unfair - a double betrayal. It isn't taking back control, it's abdicating responsibility.

"No one would dream of giving VW legal immunity from the diesel scandal, so why should ministers be let off the hook? Rather than covering their backs, they should be focusing their efforts on tackling illegal air pollution in the UK that's harming our children's health meaning in future compensation claims will no longer even arise."

A government spokesman said: “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.”