Posted: Wed 10th May 2023
The government has changed its plans for a "bonfire" of EU regulations by the end of this year.
Originally introduced by former prime minister Liz Truss and ex-business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Retained EU Law (REUL) Bill aims to remove remaining EU legislation in the UK unless they are specifically retained or replaced.
Around 4,000 EU regulations were transferred to UK law in 2020 when Brexit officially came into force. The government intended for all remaining EU laws that aren't removed or changed to automatically expire on 31 December 2023.
However in a written statement to Parliament on Wednesday, business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch said the government now proposes taking a different approach by publishing a list of 600 laws it intends to revoke rather than scrapping thousands of EU regulations.
In the statement, Badenoch said:
"Over the past year Whitehall departments have been working hard to identify retained EU law to preserve, reform or revoke. However, with the growing volume of REUL being identified, and the risks of legal uncertainty posed by sunsetting instruments made under EU law, it has become clear that the programme was becoming more about reducing legal risk by preserving EU laws than prioritising meaningful reform.
"That is why today I am proposing a new approach: one that will ensure ministers and officials can focus more on reforming REUL, and doing that faster.
"Today the government is tabling an amendment for Lords Report, which will replace the current sunset in the Bill with a list of the retained EU laws that we intend to revoke under the Bill at the end of 2023. This provides certainty for business by making it clear which regulations will be removed from our statue book, instead of highlighting only the REUL that would be saved."
The Retained EU Law Bill returns to Parliament next week.
Several groups have warned that scrapping laws by default could have unintended consequences.
Last December, the Welsh government’s legislation committee sent a letter to former business secretary Grant Shapps saying that it could harm key health, environmental and agricultural regulations.
Regulatory reforms to 'save employers £1bn a year'
Alongside Badenoch's statement the government unveiled new proposals for regulatory reforms which it claimed could save employers around £1bn a year.
It includes reducing "time-consuming and disproportionate reporting requirements for specific elements of the Working Time Regulations, while retaining the 48-hour week requirement".
These regulations, which limit the maximum weekly hours employees can work unless they choose to work longer, were introduced by the EU, when the UK was a member, in 1998.
The government also said it will ensure:
"...regulation is, by default, the last rather than first response of government by reforming the Better Regulation Framework. The new, smarter framework will ensure future regulation of our changing economy is streamlined, minimises business burdens, and puts forward-looking regulation at the heart of Government decisions."
In addition, the government said it will:
."..improve regulators' focus on economic growth by ensuring regulatory action is taken only when it is needed, and any action take is proportionate."
In another change, the government intends to:
"...promote competition and productivity in the workplace by limiting the length of non-compete clauses to three months, providing more flexibility for up to 5 million UK workers to join a competitor or start up a rival business after they have left a position. The change will also provide a boost to the wider UK economy, supporting employers to grow their businesses and increase productivity by widening the talent pool and improving the quality of candidates they can hire."
The government has also updated its retained EU law dashboard which sets out each law and an overview of the percentages of REUL which have been amended, repealed or replaced. As of April 2023, over 4,800 individual pieces of REUL have been identified.