Retained EU Law

Dear Constituent,

Thank you for contacting me 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. The Bill will abolish this special status and will enable the Government, via Parliament, to amend more easily, repeal and replace REUL.

As the Bill is currently drafted, 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. The Government has tabled an amendment for Lords Report, which will replace the current sunset in the Bill with a list of all of the EU laws that it intends to revoke under the Bill at the end of 2023. 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.

Amendment 76 (the Hamilton-Hope amendment)) would impose a novel and untested scrutiny requirement on regulations made. The Government believes that the purpose of this Bill is to ensure that we have the right regulations in place which are right for the whole of the UK. I would like to reassure you that the Government will ensure that any significant retained EU law reforms will receive the appropriate level of scrutiny by the relevant legislatures and will be subject to all of the usual processes for consultation and impact assessment. However, the Government also believes that it has to ensure that the limited amount of parliamentary time that is available is used most appropriately and most effectively. Requiring that the powers be subject to additional scrutiny is neither appropriate nor necessary in this case.

The Government is committed to upholding workers’ and consumers' rights, as well as environmental protections, following the UK’s departure from the EU. The Working Time Directive has been transposed into UK law; our consumer protections will remain some of the best in the world; and the Government has recently legislated to strengthen environmental protection in the form of the Environment Act 2021.

Under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018, workers' rights have been retained in UK law. The Working Time Regulations regulations provide that, subject to certain exceptions where the nature of the work makes it impractical, employees cannot work more than 48 hours a week averaged, normally, over a period of 17 weeks. It is possible for employees, as it was before we left the EU, to opt out of this provision voluntarily and in writing, either indefinitely or for a specified period. Employers can request that an employee opts out but cannot terminate their employment or treat them unfairly if they decline. Under current EU law, the regulations also impose burdensome recording keeping and reporting requirements on employers, that do not add benefits to workers but impose significant costs to the business. That’s why the Government has announced that it will be consulting on alleviating these requirements, which could save businesses £1 billion without reducing the protections for workers.

Ultimately, the UK has one of the best records on workers’ rights, going further than the EU in many areas, and I am determined to build on this progress. By further protecting workers, supporting business to comply with the law, and preventing them from being undercut by a minority of irresponsible employers, the UK can continue to have a high-wage, high-employment economy that works for everyone as we build back better from the pandemic.

The Government provides 52 weeks of maternity leave, with the option to convert it to shared parental leave. In comparison, the EU requirement for maternity leave is just 14 weeks The right to flexible working for all employees was introduced in the UK in the early 2000s, whereas the EU agreed its rules only recently and offers the right only to parents and carers. The UK introduced two weeks’ paid paternity leave back in 2003, and the EU legislated for this only recently.

I would like to reassert that women's rights have never been dependent on the UK's membership of the EU, nor will they be affected by the revocation of retained EU Law.

Core consumer protections, as set out in the Consumer Rights Act 2015, remain unaffected by the REUL Bill. The Government will maintain its international commitments on consumer protection. The Government says it will bring forward proposals to address REUL that impacts consumer protection using the powers in the Bill or other available legislative instruments. The UK regime sets some of the highest standards of consumer protection in the world, and this will continue to be the case.

This Bill will benefit people and businesses across the United Kingdom and end the supremacy of EU law. What we want to see is meaningful reform which not only removes unnecessary red tape, but allows us to tailor regulation to our needs and for the UK to secure its own path. Already, over 1,000 laws have been revoked or reformed since Britain's exit from the EU. This Bill would revoke around 600 more and other legislation will revoke a further 500. The Bill now provides certainty for business by making it 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.

Finally, you will be reassured to know that the Government remains committed to protecting the rights of passengers when travelling by air.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.