Government scales back plans for ‘bonfire’ of retained EU laws
The UK Government will scale back plans to ‘sunset’ the majority of EU laws transposed post-Brexit by the end of the year – a move that many prominent green groups had been campaigning for.
Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch today (10 May) confirmed that the Government will uphold an amendment to the Retained EU Law Bill made in the House of Lords.
While the Government was initially looking to ‘sunset’ almost all EU laws by the end of the year, it will now select a shorter list of laws to be prioritized in the coming months.
Badenoch, in a written statement, said the Government has been identifying a “growing volume” of retained EU law. With a longer to-do list, rushing the process would prove costly and resource-intensive, and could result in legal issues, she explained in the statement.
Instead of automatically revoking almost all retained EU laws by the end of December, the Government will instead provide a list of which regulations will be removed from the statute book this year. It will also work, in the future, to list regulations for removal to a longer timeframe.
Badenoch stated that around 600 pieces of law will be revoked through the Retained EU Law Bill. A further 500 are on the chopping block through the Financial Services and Markets Bill, and the Procurement Bill.
The statement does not mention the calls to action from some of the UK’s most prominent green groups, plus its own post-Brexit environmental watchdog, for reform of the Bill to ensure that environmental standards did not decline.
A joint report from environmental charities and NGOs this January warned of more than £82bn of risk over a 30-year period from weakened legislation in areas such as soil quality, chemical regulation, water and air quality. Costs would result from things like weakened market opportunities, poor human health and loss of natural resources.
One of the organisations to have contributed to this report was The Wildlife Trusts. Their chief executive, Craig Bennett, said the Government “should not be congratulated” for today’s decision.
He said: “The huge problem posed by the bill still remains because it will allow future governments to revoke important laws at whim, whenever they want to.
“Ministers should never be given carte blanche to pick and choose which laws should be kept or binned without public consultation or scrutiny – that is fundamentally undemocratic. The uncertainty created by the Government over Retained EU Law has caused huge problems for business, as well as organisations working to protect nature.”
“We will retain the vitally important powers in the Bill that allow us to continue to amend EU laws, so more complex regulation can still be revoked or reformed after proper assessment and consultation,” Badenoch’s statement reads.
Greener UK’s senior fellow Ruth Chambers said the Government’s change is “both a helpful step forward and a legislative mirage”.
The National Trust’s director of outdoors and natural resources Patrick Begg added that while the change is “a step in the right direction”, the organisation will be “watching carefully to see which laws the Government chooses to revoke” and is “still concerned that ministers will have broad powers to amend existing laws without proper oversight from Parliament”.