The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill has many serious problems. In its current form, it represents a huge power grab by the Executive. It sunsets all EU-derived laws at the end of this year unless a Minister acts to save them. Only Ministers will decide which laws are retained, which ones are amended and which ones are scrapped without parliamentary oversight and scrutiny. Affected stakeholders are excluded from the process. There is less than one year to review approximately 4000 laws and decide what to do with them. The rush to scrap or amend laws is bound to lead to mistakes, omissions and contradictions. There are ways to fix the problems with the REUL Bill.
It would be ideal if the Bill was scrapped. This looks unrealistic. It has already completed its passage through the House of Commons and is now going through its second reading in the House of Lords. The next best solution for UKMA is to seek changes to the Bill.
One huge problem with this Bill is the sunset clause. It automatically sunsets all EU-derived laws at the end of this year unless a Minister decides to save them. This has to go. Instead of a sunset clause, all EU-derived laws will remain by default with no expiry date.
Another huge problem with this Bill is that Ministers get so-called King Henry VIII powers to decide what stays, what changes and what goes. Instead of leaving the future of affected laws to ministerial discretion, the Bill should implement a democratic process involving MPs, Lords and stakeholders. This is described here.
Each government department produces a report about all the affected laws it is responsible for with the help of its civil servants and makes some recommendations.
Then there should be a period of public consultation based on the report and recommendations. After that, a parliamentary committee that oversees the department’s work should meet, call witnesses and accept evidence from the public. The committee produces a report that with full details about any changes that should be made to these EU-derived laws and any that should be abolished.
Then any amendments and repeals should be presented to Parliament and these changes should go through the same parliamentary process as the REUL Bill.
The REUL Bill will have to be rewritten to make this happen. One big advantage of my proposals is that it ensures a high level of certainty, stability and continuity, unlike the REUL Bill in its present form.
Currently, supporters of the REUL Bill cannot answers the following important questions:
- What laws are affected by the REUL Bill?
- What do these laws do?
- What would happen if all these laws disappeared?
- What is going to replace these laws?
- What is wrong with these laws?
- Why can’t we keep these laws?
For most of these laws, the answer to these questions is “No idea.”.
It seems that some prominent supporters of the Bill want to reset the UK to Year Zero, an unregulated primitive pre-industrial age, with the REUL Bill. It fits in with their agenda of mass deregulation and a Singapore-on-Thames vision for the future of the UK. The REUL Bill assumes that all regulation is inherently bad and should be abolished to reduce the regulatory burden. No evidence has been produced to support the assumptions of the REUL Bill.
The affected laws cover environmental production, food safety, product safety standards, consumer protection and a lot more. It includes some weights and measures legislation as well, as described in the Rees Moggs’ Legislative Time Bomb article on Metric Views. It is grossly irresponsible to risk the mass disappearance of thousands of laws without any idea of the consequences.