A recent FOI response proves that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has not published any impact assessments on scrapping and reforming EU laws under the proposed Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. This Bill will affect approximately 3800 EU laws on the statute book, including the extra 1400 newly identified EU laws by the Government according to recent news reports. This Bill contains a sunset clause that ensures EU laws expire automatically on 31 December 2023 unless a Minister decides to save them.
On 30 October 2022, I asked BEIS for impact assessments of keeping, reforming and scrapping EU laws. In my FOI email to BEIS, I wrote:
“The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill proposes to scrap or reform all EU laws and regulations and contains a sunset clause where all EU laws and regulations automatically expire on 31 December 2023 – unless Ministers actively decide to save specific regulations before the cut-off date.
Can you please provide me with documentation about the impact assessments you have done on the effects of keeping, reforming and scrapping these laws and regulations.”
On 11 November, I got a reply from BEIS, which you can see here:
BEIS have said that they have withheld information about the impact assessments because they intend to publish this information in the future on their website. They did not tell me when it will be published.
BEIS acknowledged that “there is a general public interest in releasing information about the impact assessment for the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill as this leads to greater transparency and accountability in how the government changes regulations and laws”.
BEIS continues, “However, given the necessary preparation and administration involved in publishing the information, we consider that the best use of public resources would be directed to pulling this information together, ensuring the information is accurate and published in a consistent and comprehensive format, rather than in a piecemeal fashion.”. They are withholding the information until it is ready for publication.
Leading Ministers, including the current PM Rishi Sunak and former Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, expressed their commitment to scrapping or reforming hundreds of EU laws. Why didn’t Ministers do a full impact assessment of this policy before proceeding with it? We are entitled to know the consequences of this policy before Ministers go ahead with it.
This Bill gives Ministers dictatorial powers to keep, amend and scrap EU laws and regulations without proper parliamentary scrutiny. They have not revealed which ones they want to keep, which ones they want to amend, and which ones they want to repeal. For the laws and regulations that Ministers want to amend, it is not clear what will replace them or what changes they plan to make to them.
So far, we have been kept in the dark about Ministers’ intentions. And so has Parliament. Their intentions are unclear. However, it is clear that if nothing is done to save them, they will automatically be revoked on 31 December 2023. Such regulations are now being treated by default as undesirable only because they are associated with the EU and for no other reason.
BEIS are also using Section 35(1)(a) to withhold this information. In their FOI response, they write “Section 35(1)(a) exempts information from being released if it relates to the formulation or development of government policy. The information you have requested relates to the formulation and development of policy regarding the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill.”. Government Ministers have already decided to proceed with this Bill but have kept us in the dark about the impacts of scrapping and reforming thousands of EU laws and regulations. The impact assessments will presumably inform Ministers’ decisions about what to keep, what to reform and what to repeal. We are entitled to know the basis for making these decisions. It is outrageous that the consequences of these dictatorial ministerial powers are being kept secret from us. We are entitled to know how it will affect British citizens and important stakeholders.
The removal and amendment of EU laws and regulations will increase trade barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. NI is governed by the Northern Ireland Protocol, which ensures that they will all still apply to NI even if they no longer apply to GB. This will undermine NI’s place in the UK and alienate the unionists. It could increase demands for a border poll on a united Ireland. The Stormont Assembly has been without a functioning executive for many months because the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has refused to enter a power-sharing executive with Sinn Fein. They are boycotting the Assembly in protest at the NI Protocol and are demanding changes to it. This Bill is bound to make this situation worse.
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 https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9190/). This could lead to retaliation by the EU (i.e., a trade war) or, in the worst-case scenario, the suspension of the TCA, leading to a no-deal Brexit.
This Bill could have serious consequences for the status of Northern Ireland, the future of the union and the UK’s relationship with the EU. Swathes of health and safety, employment, environmental, and consumer protections and food standards, among other important rights and protections, could disappear, even by accident.
The wildly unrealistic self-imposed deadline of 31 December 2023 will be far too short to for proper reviews, debates and consultation of relevant stakeholders and implementation of well-designed amendments and replacements for EU laws. It will create a huge amount of uncertainty, chaos, a bureaucratic nightmare for both business and the civil service and risks of unintended consequences.
It is outrageous that the Government has not published any impact assessments for all the affected EU legislation on the statute book before deciding to proceed with a Bill that automatically revokes thousands of laws at the end of next year.
5 thoughts on “No published impact assessments for Retained EU Law Bill”
We should not fall into the trap of using BEIS terminology – which describes these laws as “EU laws”. They are UK laws.
The Weights and Measures Act 1985 (which is one of the 3800 laws affected here) is an Act of the UK Parliament. It replaced the previous Weights and Measures Act 1963 (as amended) – a law that was made 10 years before we even joined the EEC.
The preamble of the 1985 Act reads as follows,
“An Act to consolidate certain enactments relating to weights and measures.
Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spriritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same”
The fact that the Weights and Measures Act 1985 is in accordance with certain EU Directives does not make it an “EU law”.
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If I understand correctly, the Retained EU Law Bill is still a bill and not yet law? So, if it never becomes law by 2023-12-31, then what? The way this topic is being treated it is as if this bill is already law.
Is this bill being discussed in Parliament at the present time? Is there a date by which there will be a vote to make it law or reject it? What is the feeling among MPs as to whether they will vote in favour to make this bill a law or reject it?
The Bill is not law yet. I’m not sure what gives the impression that it already was.
The Second Reading (the main House of Commons debate) was on 25 October 2022, as noted in the original article:
The vote was 280 in favour, 225 against.
The Bill is now in the Committee Stage, as mentioned in the comment:
Further progress of the Bill can be followed on the Government website:
South Africa became a republic in 1961 and at the same time, due to her Apartheid policies, left the Commonwealth. In the weeks and months that followed, the South African Government set about cleansing the bookshops and news agents of seditious literature. When the censor’s eye saw that there was a weekly magazine with a comparatively large circulation called “Princess”, he banned it – you could not have royalist literature like that circulating in a republic. He then saw that the book “Black Beauty” was in many libraries. “The black man knows his place” was his immediate thought, so that too was banned.
The English language press was up in arms. The Government had acted without actually investigating the content of a weekly magazine aimed at ten to twelve-year-old schoolgirls or a children’s classic that had been around for nearly a century. Within two or three weeks, a shame-faced minister revoked the bans.
It appears to me that the authors of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill are acting just as impulsively as their South African counterparts of sixty years ago, and like their South African counterparts, failed to engage brain before acting.
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The Regulatory Policy Committee’s opinion of the Government’s Impact Assessment (IA) of this Bill:
“The IA is not fit for purpose. The Department has not sufficiently considered, or sought to quantify, the full impacts of the Bill.”
“The Department does not commit to a post-implementation review of the impacts of the Bill. The IA needs to consider what monitoring and evaluation (M&E) could be put in place to assess the impact of the measures that will be retained, amended or sunset.”
Click to access RPC-CO-5223_1_-_IA_f__-_opinion.pdf