Majority of UK businesses against weakening regulatory standards in Retained EU Law Bill

The Bill has been widely criticised by green groups

Unchecked UK and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) have polled 2,000 UK businesses to gain an understanding of corporate attitudes to the Retained EU Law Bill.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak campaigned on promises to ensure that UK law diverges from EU law in instances where this could create higher standards and economic benefits. Under Truss, the Government ushered in the Retained Law Bill, which is designed to ensure that the majority of EU laws retained in the UK post-Brexit expire at the end of 2023. The rest of the laws should then be phased out by June 2026.

The Bill was swiftly criticised by green groups who claimed that hasty changes could lead to a downgrade in environmental and social standards. Moreover, delivering the Bill, some have argued, would redirect civil service resource from progressing the pressing changes to legislation needed to meet key climate and nature targets, following years of delays already.

UK businesses have now voiced their concern over the Bill, which was debated by MPs at the start of the year.

The poll found that 69% of businesses are against the lowering of standards as part of the Bill, with just 7% claiming they’d be willing to accept lower standards. Businesses also claimed that “excessive Government regulation” was not a main issue for them right now so standards for health, safety and the environment do not need to be relaxed. Indeed, businesses cited energy costs as the major challenge facing them right now, alongside inflation and labour shortages.

RoSPA’s head of policy Nathan Davies said: “As it stands, the health and safety of Britain’s 32 million strong workforce is under threat with the way the Retained EU Law Bill proposes to deal with vital legislation – and given that almost 80% of UK businesses are not willing to accept lower health and safety standards, it demonstrates how woefully out of touch the Government really is.

“We want reassurance that UK will remain a beacon of health and safety, and believe every piece of health and safety legislation should be treated with the care, attention and evidence-based approach it deserves.”

The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) itself has now warned the Government against a rushed approach to ‘sunsetting’ EU legislation. It is recommending that the 2023 deadline is moved.

The economic costs of the Retained EU Law Bill report, from groups including the Wildlife and Countryside Link by the Economics for the Environment Consultancy recently investigated the potential economic impact that the REUL Bill could have if environmental laws are weakened across chemical regulation, water pollution, air quality and habitats.

The report argues that removing or weakening existing legislation across key environmental sectors could further destroy nature, worsen public health and incur costs of £82.94bn over the next 30 years.

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