Rees-Mogg’s legislation time bomb

Today in Parliament, the House of Commons is scheduled to debate a Bill, introduced on 22 September by Jacob Rees-Mogg, entitled, Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. The innocuous sounding title belies the disruptive, and potentially devastating, effects that it could have on all walks of life in the UK, including metrication.

Under a so-called sunset clause, this legislation will start a time fuse, set to go off on 31 December 2023, when at a stroke over 2400 UK laws and regulations, made over a 47 year-period, will automatically be revoked – unless Ministers actively decide to save specific regulations before the cut-off date. Decades of legislation will be undone without scrutiny or debate. The move has been widely branded as being anti-democratic by legal experts.

Laws that have implemented previous Governments’ policies on metrication are not immune from the scope of the Bill. Certain aspects of metrication stand to be reversed without consultation or Parliamentary debate.

The regulations affected are to be revoked for no other reason than they were made as a result of agreement with our neighbouring countries, largely in the interests of adopting common standards, protections and rights necessary for the facilitation of smooth trade with our neighbours. Regardless of their being approved by the Governments of the day, such regulations are now being treated by default as undesirable. Their removal, without Parliamentary scrutiny, is being hailed as a “benefit of Brexit”.

Rather than addressing individual regulations with full scrutiny and proper debate, as was envisaged by Theresa May, when the concept of “EU retained law” was first mooted, legal experts have warned that swathes of laws including equal pay for men and women, workers’ rights, environmental protections, food standards and aviation safety rules could accidentally disappear, or be redrafted poorly.

The scope of this Bill is so huge that the (still ongoing) audit has led the Government to create an interactive database or “dashboard” to navigate the affected legislation:

UK Government – Retained EU Law Dashboard

Entering “weights” in the “REUL Explorer” Search tool of the “Retained EU Law Dashboard” at

gives a list of 11 items of legislation including:

Measuring Instruments (EEC Requirements) Regulations 1988
Weights & Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) Order 1988/2039
Weights & Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 2006/659
Weights & Measures Act 1963(Cheese, Fish, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Meat and Poultry) Order 1984
Weights & Measures Act 1985
Weights & Measures (Cosmetic Products) Order 1994/1884
Weights & Measures (Specified Quantities) (Pre-packed Products) Regulations 2009/663

Entering “metric”, gives a list of 5 items of legislation including:

Units of Measurement Regulations 2009
Agriculture (Metrication) Regulations 1981 (SI 1981/1414)
Health and Safety (Miscellaneous etc) Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/1811)
The Pipe-lines (Metrication) Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/449)

Undesirable tinkering with, let alone revoking, any of the above pieces of legislation could have undesirable consequences for consumer protection, and increased costs for manufacturers and traders. Removing regulations in such a short period also increases the likelihood of unforeseen knock-on effects with other legislation.

The total impact of this Bill has yet to be fully assessed, but it does seem rather like our country’s legal framework is being treated like a game of KerPlunk.

References and further reading

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

Rees-Mogg move to axe 2,400 laws is ‘anti-democratic’, say legal experts

Britain faces chaos if it scraps EU laws, warns ex-Whitehall legal boss

Rishi Sunak urged to scrap ‘undemocratic’ proposals to axe 2,400 laws

Hansard Society: Overview: Why is this Bill flawed?

Kate Ollerenshaw: More Haste, Less Speed: Sunset Clauses in the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

19 thoughts on “Rees-Mogg’s legislation time bomb”

  1. So, how would this affect the changes of the law that brought on metrication prior to entry into the then common market? Much of the changes were brought about by industry that wanted a better system for their industries that save money and reduced errors.


  2. That bill is insane and shows a contempt for due process across the board. It means that thousands of laws will have to be selected by ministers without the proper parliamentary oversight, like how laws are supposed to be made so it can meet the tight deadline. There is absolutely no reason for it, parliament can already amend/ revoke legislation and it has already been put into UK law.

    Glad that Rees-Mogg has resigned. Hopefully, he and his disdain for modernity can be consigned to the back benches until he stops being an MP. With this dangerous legislation and any attempts to revert back to imperial units leaving with him.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The proposal to introduce a sunset clause shows Rees-Mogg’s ignorance of how the law works. The case Francovich v Italy which was heard in the the European Court of Justice (See laid down the principal that any EU directive was binding on all member states regardless of whether they passed legislation implementing it or not. There were situations in the United Kingdom where it was not neccessary to explicitly pass legislation to implement the directive, but that the courts would take notice of the directive when a case arose. Likewise, EU directives plugged holes in teh British legislative framework – for example, the volt, ampere,watt etc were never defined in UK law. Should the sunseet clause be implemented, the courts will spend many years unravelling the mess in an already over-burdened legal system.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This bit of legislation has a sunset clause of 31 December 2023. If the bill is passed, then there will be a mad scramble to get things tidied up as 31 December approaches. There is however a small problem – Parliament must be dissolved on or before 17 December 2023 in order that a new election can be called. In the run up to a general election, Parliament is usually very busy tying up loose ends. To me the timing of the sunset clause looks like a recipe for disaster.


  5. The automatic expiry of EU laws and regulations under the sunset clause could potentially breach the level playing-field (LPF) provisions of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) (e.g., see and lead to retaliation by the EU (i.e., a trade war) or, in the worst-case scenario, the suspension of the TCA. It could also create additional internal trade barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland because these EU laws and regulations will still apply in NI even if they no longer apply in GB. This could lead to more checks and paperwork for GB-NI trade. This would also undermine the union and increase the chances of NI seceding from the UK and joining the Republic of Ireland. These extra trade barriers will reduce trade with NI and with the EU.

    City AM recently reported that Jacob Rees-Mogg wanted to scrap all business regulations for SMEs (source: with under 500 employees.

    JRM has dangerous ideas about deregulation, which have serious consequences for the environment, workers’ rights, animal welfare, product safety standards, health and safety and many other aspects of our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. On the Hansard Society website, there is a webinar where legal experts discuss the implications of this bill, which you can watch at

    They also publish the “Five problems with the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill” briefing at, explaining the problems with this bill. This page contains a link to download the briefing as a PDF.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a dictatorship in its infancy. It was also shocking to see he presented his viewpoint to an almost empty house. The majority of MPs most likely will not even be aware of what the Bill contains and most likely will allow it to happen and thus limit their own power and eventually eliminate parliament altogether.


  8. Brexit benefit??? I can’t believe how simple minded and harmful that whole sunset bill is (let alone the effort to revive Imperial). I hope a general election happens next year and puts Labour in charge. That should then be the end of that particular nonsense.


  9. In the linked New Civil Engineer publication, it is reported that “National Highways has confirmed that if imperial measurements do become UK standard, a number of its systems will have to be altered”. It must have escaped National Highways that the metric-educated British public are still expected to cope with antiquated units of measurement on road signs. Perhaps it could do something about that.


  10. Metricnow,

    Where in any of the consultations and/or documents is anyone promising that imperial become the UK standard such that it will require present systems that are metric to be altered? I was under the impression the only thing intended to happen was to allow the status quo to continue which means that shop keepers could legally advertise and sell in imperial only. There is no intent to revert any part of the economy back to imperial, only to give the choice as to what units are used by a particular shopkeeper.

    And if by some fluke those proposing allowing shops to sell in imperial in fact intend quietly to revert everything else such as the national highway standards, what is to stop the managers and directors of any organisation to refuse to comply? Metrication came about via an organised plan, demetrication would not be so well organised.


  11. Daniel:

    You are asking the wrong person. You should address your question to the author of the article in the New Civil Engineer publication. They certainly seem to think the proposed reversion to imperial units is wider than you say.


  12. @Metricnow

    A map showing driver location signs on the M25, published by the Highways Agency (as it then was,) can be found at I have in my possession further incomplete maps showing driver location signs for the M4, M5, M6, M11, M42, North West area and HA Area 3, all dated 2009. Why was work on them stopped? My guess is that they were stopped by order of the Department For Transport for political reasons. The fault therefore lies with the Government rather than with the Highways Authority.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Today’s Financial Times reported that the number of pieces of legislation that need to be reviewed as part of JRM’s bill has risen from 2400 to 3800. The article goes on to say that the Government is getting cold feet about the impact of the, noting that hundreds of civil servants will need to be drafted in in order to meet the 2023 deadline.


  14. The first sitting of the Committee stage of this Bill was on 8 November 2022. A transcript is available on Hansard:

    George Peretz KC:
    … there is every difference between a Government saying, “Here is the existing law, we propose to replace it with legislation, and here is the text of the proposed reform,” which is the normal process of law reform, and what is happening here. The Government are effectively saying to business and the wider world, “All of this law is open to change; we cannot tell you whether we will keep any of it. Some of it may just disappear, it may be replaced, and we cannot yet tell you what the replacement is. All of this is going to happen in 18 months.”

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I was recently remined of the “Herald of Free Enterprise” Disaster. First of all, a reminder of what happened. On 6 March 1897, a Townsend Thoresen ferry, the “Herald of Free Enterprise” left the Belgian port of Zeebrugge destined for Dover. The bow door was left open, the car deck was flooded, the ship capsized and 193 people lost their lives. The inquiry found that the immediate cause of the disaster was that the captain and first officer who were on the bridge assumed that all was OK unless they received a message to the contrary. As it happened, there was confusion as to who should have closed the bow door and no message was received by the bridge. The Herald of Free Enterprise Disaster is a classic example of the dangers of what is known as “Management by Exception”.

    The “sunset clause” in the “Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform Bill) is a “management by exception” clause – if nobody says anything, then that piece of legislation will be struck out. My fear is that if this piece of legislation goes ahead, the United Kingdom risks a legislative equivalent of the “Herald of Free Enterprise disaster”.


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