Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns about the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 brought a large number of EU laws and regulation into our domestic law. This was called Retained EU Law (REUL), and had special status, reflecting the supremacy of EU law, European Court of Justice case law and EU legal principles.

In September 2022, the Government introduced the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, which will abolish this special status and will enable the Government, via Parliament, to amend more easily, repeal and replace REUL.

In the original draft of the Bill, almost all REUL is automatically revoked at the end of 2023, unless a statutory instrument is passed to preserve it - this is known as a ‘sunset’ provision. However, the Government tabled an amendment which means that instead of all REUL being revoked unless preserved, Ministers must put forward a defined list of all of the EU laws that they intend to revoke under the Bill at the end of 2023. Meanwhile, the remainder will continue in force without the need to pass extra legislation.

By making it clear which regulations will be removed from our statute book, businesses and all those affected by these laws will have certainty. The Government will retain the vitally important powers in the Bill that allow it to continue to amend REUL, so more complex regulation can still be revoked or reformed after further assessment and consultation.

This Bill will benefit people and businesses across the United Kingdom and end the supremacy of EU law. It not only removes unnecessary red tape but allows us to tailor regulation to our needs. Already, over 1,000 laws have been revoked or reformed since Britain's exit from the EU, and this Bill would revoke around 600 more and other legislation will revoke a further 500.

Businesses will have certainty as it will be clear which regulations will be removed from the statue book, instead of highlighting only the REUL that would be saved. Crucially, the powers included in the Bill that allow us to continue changing REUL have been retained. As such, more complex regulation can still be revoked or reformed after proper assessment and consultation.

An amendment was tabled which would require that before making changes to environmental or food legislation under REUL, the Government must consult those independent of it with expertise when making changes that relate to the environment or certain aspects of food regulations; seek advice from the Office of Environmental Protection and Food Standards Agency; and also publish a report summarising how this advice has been considered. However, Ministers are clear this amendment is not needed to maintain our environmental protections and it would create significant additional bureaucracy and delay.

The REUL Bill will not weaken environmental standards or undermine our food protections. Under the Environment Act 2021, the Government has set legally binding targets, including a target to halt the decline of nature by 2030. In addition, stringent targets to reduce storm overflows are being enshrined into law. Further, in January, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published its Environmental Improvement Plan, setting out how it would deliver on these targets and duties. The Government has also supported action on the global stage, including at COP15, where the Global Biodiversity Framework was agreed. This includes 23 global targets, including to protect 30 per cent of global land and ocean by 2030.

Moving forward, Parliament will continue to scrutinise retained EU laws, including through the European Statutory Commitment Committee (ESIC), of which I have been a member of since February 2020, and has reviewed hundreds of statutory instruments (SIs) to date. The purpose of ESIC is to look at all the SIs coming out of the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 which the Government proposes to bring into UK law. This function is called “sifting”, and through this sift, determines which SIs are recommended for approval by both Houses of Parliament. While the Government can reject this recommendation, a Minister would need to explain why.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.