Following publication of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill on Friday (23 September), we share our initial concerns.

First, the Bill will transfer considerable legislative powers from Parliament to the Executive. Ministers will be empowered to change Retained EU law (REUL) via statutory instrument (SI). Legislation changed by SI receives very limited scrutiny and there is no meaningful opportunity for challenge from parliamentarians. 

Only 17 SIs have been voted down in the last 65 years, and the House of Commons has not rejected an SI since 1979. Major changes to policy should made by Parliament by Primary legislation, not by ministers using SIs.  

This Bill would therefore hand considerable legislative control to the Executive.   

Second, the Bill threatens a host of rights, including workers’ rights like holiday pay, agency worker rights, data protection rights, and protections from downgrading terms and conditions when businesses are transferred. 

Thirdly, many clauses in this Bill will have the effect of making settled areas of law uncertain and contested. This may give rise to many unnecessary lawsuits and it will mean individuals and businesses are less certain of where they stand and may find it harder to plan and invest for the future. 

Fourth, the creation of a ‘sunset period’ means that many important protections are at risk. Swathes of workers’ rights, environmental protections, and other consumer/economic protections will vanish at the end of 2023 UNLESS specifically saved by a Minister. 

This ‘cliff edge’ seems unnecessary as Parliament can change retained EU laws as and when it sees a policy need to do so. This has already been done in a number of areas, such as the Agriculture Act 2020 & the Environment Act 2021. A blanket sunset and wide ministerial powers look unnecessary, constitutionally unsound, and dangerous for rights and certainty.