The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill would make major changes to the body of retained EU law in UK domestic law. ‘Retained EU law’ is a concept created by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018). This act took a ‘snapshot’ of EU law as it applied to the UK at the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020 and provided for it to continue to apply in domestic law. The bill would automatically revoke, or ‘sunset’, most retained EU law at the end of 2023. This would not apply to retained EU law that was domestic primary legislation. Ministers and devolved authorities could exempt most (but not all) retained EU law from the sunset, and UK ministers (but not devolved authorities) could delay the sunset until 23 June 2026 at the latest for specific descriptions of retained EU law. Any retained EU law that still applied after the end of 2023 would be renamed as assimilated law. The bill would give ministers and devolved authorities powers to restate, reproduce, revoke, replace or update retained EU law and assimilated law by statutory instrument. 

The bill would repeal the principle of supremacy of retained EU law from UK law at the end of 2023, although its effects could be reproduced by statutory instrument in relation to specific pieces of retained EU law. The bill would also make changes to the way that courts could depart from retained EU case law. 

The bill would change the way that some types of retained EU law can be modified. It would ‘downgrade’ retained direct EU legislation so that this could be amended by secondary legislation. It would also remove additional parliamentary scrutiny requirements that currently apply when modifying some types of EU-derived domestic secondary legislation. 

The government has published a ‘dashboard’ of retained EU law, although it acknowledges this is not a comprehensive catalogue of all retained EU law that may be in scope of the bill. The dashboard is due to be updated regularly. 

Concerns have been raised about the amount of retained EU law to be reviewed before the sunset deadline and whether some may end up being revoked inadvertently. MPs and others have also expressed concerns about the impact of large-scale and rapid changes to the statute book as a consequence of the bill and have highlighted a lack of clarity about what retained EU law the government intends to keep, particularly in the areas of employment, environmental and consumer protections. They have also been critical of a lack of parliamentary scrutiny of and input into the process of reforming retained EU law. However, the only amendments made to the bill in the House of Commons were government amendments to clarify the bill’s drafting.

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