by Dawn Exley, National Development Officer

The Retained EU Law bill was introduced to parliament by the UK Government on 22nd September 2022.  It is a reform bill which aims to abolish EU law in the UK to easily enable the UK Government to amend, appeal and replace each currently retained EU law.  Currently there are at least 2400 retained laws the bill relates to which can be seen via a public dashboard.  The Bill includes a sunset date (31/12/23) by which all remaining retained EU Law will either be repealed, or assimilated into UK domestic law.

It is a complicated piece of legislation which is causing much debate.  Critics feel it is being rushed through with urgency which means there will be little time for essential scrutiny.  There are big concerns around democracy and transparency as many see it is impossible to have properly scrutinised thousands of laws in time for the sunset clause.  There is also concern around some of the language in the bill which appears to give ministers more powers to operate without parliamentary scrutiny.  This move to amend, appeal and replace each EU law is generally seen as in-keeping with the wider context of deregulation.  It is yet to be seen what implications this will have for the devolved administrations. 

The largest areas of currently retained legislation and therefore potential impact will be the environment, GDPR and workers’ rights.  At this point, it is unknown what changes to the laws the UK Government intends to make, however there are fears deregulation will mean less rights, degradation of current standards and inability to meet targets (especially on climate change).  The EU, will indeed be following the changes very closely to ensure the ‘non regression’ clause from the EU withdrawal legislation is heeded.

We will need to wait to hear the UK Government’s plans for each piece of legislation before we can assess what this might mean for community safety in Scotland.  Given the extremely tight timescales proposed, we share the concerns around scrutiny, transparency and meaningful democratic process.