Conservative MPs have been using a standard text to respond to their constituents about the Retained EU Law Bill. Three UKMA members, including two Committee members, live in different constituencies that are represented by Conservative MPs. When they wrote to their MPs, they received almost identical replies.
The standard text that Conservative MPs have been sending their constituents reflects the official party line. If you are represented by a Conservative MP and you have emailed your MP about the REUL Bill, you have probably received a text like this:
“Thank you for contacting me about EU law retained as UK law.
The UK left the EU in January 2020. The EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 repealed the European Communities Act 1972, which gave effect to EU law in the UK, and converted EU law into UK law.
To avoid an abrupt transition and provide certainty for people and businesses, some important EU legislation has remained on the statute book. This was always intended as an interim measure to ensure a smooth departure from the EU – these laws were generated by the EU and often reflected unsatisfactory compromises with other EU member states.
Therefore, I am glad that the Government has committed to amend, replace, or repeal all retained EU law that is not right for the UK and to begin a new series of reforms to the legislation we inherited on EU exit. This process will ensure all courts in this country will have the full ability to depart from EU case law and finalise the process of restoring Parliament and our courts to their proper constitutional positions. I am confident that, through these measures, we will remove legislation that was passed with little or no democratic accountability and often directly against the wishes of UK representatives.
As laid out in the Queen’s Speech 2022, the Brexit Freedoms Bill will be brought forward to achieve this. This new legislation will ensure that law inherited from the EU can be more easily amended, so that the UK can capitalise on Brexit freedoms more quickly. This will form part of a wider plan to do things differently, in ways that work better for this country, and promote growth, productivity, and prosperity.”
When UKMA Chair Peter Burke and I wrote to our MPs about the REUL Bill, who happen to be Conservative Party members, we received almost identical replies based on the text above with a few minor changes. Another UKMA member received an almost identical reply from another Conservative MP about this Bill.
This suggests that a response has been prepared centrally and distributed to the different MPs. The responses obtained suggested that there was little intention to pay attention to the concerns expressed by constituents. Some MPs repeat the official party line instead of answering the concerns of constituents and other stakeholders about this Bill.
They claim that “To avoid an abrupt transition and provide certainty for people and businesses, some important EU legislation has remained on the statute book.”, the irony is that this Bill threatens to cause lots of abrupt changes and create huge uncertainty for people and businesses. When they say that “the Government has committed to amend, replace, or repeal all retained EU law that is not right for the UK and to begin a new series of reforms to the legislation we inherited on EU exit”, nobody has any idea what will be amended or replaced or what will be repealed. Nor does anybody know what will replace these laws. When they say that “This will form part of a wider plan to do things differently, in ways that work better for this country, and promote growth, productivity, and prosperity.”, nobody can explain what is wrong with the retained EU law that we already have, nobody can explain why the changes will be better, especially when the changes are unknown, and how any changes will promote growth, productivity, and prosperity.
Given the widespread hostility to the EU within the ruling Conservative Party, these laws are being treated as undesirable by default because of their association with the EU and for no other reason. So far, 3800 have been identified. More could be identified as we approach the “sunset” clause whereby all laws that have not been saved by Ministers by the end of December 2023 will automatically be revoked. It is wildly unrealistic to review and scrutinise so many laws in one year. Any proposed changes are likely to be rushed with little or no scrutiny to meet the deadline. This is bound to produce bad laws and unintended consequences. The promises made by Conservative MPs to their constituents in the officially prepared text are most unlikely to be achieved in the very short timescale.
This bill has the potential to leave the UK with a massive legislative vacuum, and the government needs to understand that pushing it forward will cause it infinite trouble.