The EU Retained Law Bill rips up rights and rules upon which Britain has relied for decades. It not only deletes thousands of pieces of legislation, with no guarantee of any alternative, it enshrines in law the Conservative dogma that regulation is always anti-business, and breaks promises that Brexit would allow the UK to “go beyond” EU law, by preventing Ministers from replacing EU legislation with anything that offers more rights and protections.
This will affect over 300 different policy areas - from the rules around sports on television, to environmental protections, consumer rights and employment protections as well as airline safety rules. The Bill also gives Ministers powers to do this all at once, without consulting anybody, and to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of any replacements causing further chaos for millions. You can find here a link to a suggested letter to your MP about this issue asking them to oppose this legislation.
EU Retained Law Bill – Why is it Needed?
- This Bill removes as many as 3,800 pieces of law at a stroke that were previously part of our legislative framework as a result of being part of the European Union. They were automatically copied over onto the UK law book when we left the European Union in
- These cover 300 different policy areas, from employment rights to aircraft safety to environmental protections, sports broadcasting to animal Without EU legislation to fall back upon to keep these laws in place, Ministers must either choose to write them into UK law, replace them with alternatives or abandon them all together.
What does the Bill do?
- Under the Bill, huge swathes of retained EU law will be repealed on 31st December 2023 unless Ministers intervene to protect specific pieces of legislation. Ministers may extend these laws being active in the UK via statutory Where legislation is not retained, Ministers may replace or redraft it via statutory instruments. Ministers can also choose to abandon key rights and rules by simply not replacing them and letting them fall from UK law on this date. They can do all of this without going to Parliament at all and without consulting, or even telling, anybody, and with little risk of legal challenge.
- Even where Ministers decide to replace retained EU law rather than just let it fall, the Bill gives them huge powers to replace it in ways that reduces or removes rights and protections, and to do so without consultation and with no or only very limited scrutiny by Parliament.
- If they choose to go ahead with this timetable, it requires civil servants to review all 2,417 pieces of legislation within a year, as well as draft replacements where required. This creates the risk of significant drafting errors, whereby new regulations would have unintended consequences. Without a legislative scrutiny process, there will be little or no scope to correct these errors prior to new regulations coming into force.
- Even where the rights and protections currently based on retained EU law are allowed to survive, the Bill deliberately throws the way in which those rights are interpreted into doubt, for no reason other than Tory prejudice against EU Uncertainty about the law is bad for consumers, workers and the environment - but also very bad for business, as investment decisions require predictable and stable regulation.
What Rights are at Risk - and What Can Replace Them? The Deregulation Dozen
The Bill also explicitly requires that no legislation to replace any existing law can increase standards on these 300 areas of policy, as it claims this would negatively impact business. Specifically, under Clause 15(5), Ministers may not use any of the powers in this Bill, including the power to introduce new regulations to replace EU law, in a way which increases the ‘regulatory burden’ – meaning that this Bill can only be used to remove rights, rather than enhance them. This means it enshrines in law the requirement to deregulate in these areas of public policy, enshrining the Tory dogma that less regulation is necessarily better regulation.
With 2,417 pieces of legislation listed on the Government's deregulation dashboard and a further 1,400 uncovered by the National Archives – many of which are due to be automatically repealed under this Bill - there are few areas of protection which are not at risk. Here are a dozen examples of the laws it covers and so are at risk of disappearing all together:
- Preventing cancer causing materials being used in cosmetics products
- Ensuring major sporting events to be free to watch
- Protections for part-time workers from less favourable treatment
- Minimum standards to ensure planes are safe to fly
- Compensation rules for transport firms for delays and lost luggage
- Minimum requirements for maternity pay
- Preventing food manufacturers making false health claims
- Penalties for insider training
- Protecting pensions payouts when a company goes bust
- Disease control for bird flu
- TUPE rights in the case of outsourcing
- Preventing the trafficking of illegal guns
While Ministers may claim certain rights are not at risk, there are no provisions in the Bill to safeguard this, and no means to ensure they are protected once the Bill becomes law.
There is also no requirement for Ministers to consult or inform stakeholders which pieces of legislation they are planning to retain, creating cover for them to roll back rights with no scrutiny and no opportunity for these decisions to be challenged before they happen.
What’s the Alternative? How Could You Reduce the Red Tape Brexit has Caused?
It doesn't have to be this way. Rushed deregulation will cause chaos for businesses, put livelihoods at risk and do little to help our struggling economy grow. By contrast, addressing the problems Brexit has created for trade would reduce the red tape which is causing so many small businesses to give up trading with our neighbours.
- The impacts of our abrupt exit from the EU are visible already, with food prices up 6% because of Brexit and a third of companies which used to export to the EU stopping doing so. With a third of businesses which exported to the EU stopping, addressing trade friction must be a priority.
- As a first step, the UK could join PEM, a network which includes everyone from Turkey and Israel to Iceland and EU so that manufacturers aren’t bogged down in mountains of paperwork on rules of origin – allowing our complex and valuable manufacturing sector from the potteries of Stoke to Nissan in Sunderland to thrive.
Watch our briefing to LME Members here!