In a long-awaited decision, the Government have announced that they are scrapping the controversial “sunset clause” in its Retained EU Law Bill due to the “risks of legal uncertainty”, and will instead publish a list of around 600 pieces of legislation that it intends to revoke under the bill by the end of 2023.
A sunset clause is a provision in a Bill that gives it an expiry date once it is passed into law. Sunset clauses are included in legislation when it is felt that Parliament should have the chance to decide on its merits again after a fixed period.
The Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill – REUL, championed by former Business Secretary and arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, would have automatically deleted every EU law which hadn’t already been reviewed by the government.
The move comes amidst pressure on the Government to remove the clause from the Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill, which it introduced into parliament in September last year.
Business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch said:
“Over the past year Whitehall departments have been working hard to identify retained EU law to preserve, reform or revoke. However, with the growing volume of REUL being identified, and the risks of legal uncertainty posed by sunsetting instruments made under EU law, it has become clear that the programme was becoming more about reducing legal risk by preserving EU laws than prioritising meaningful reform. That is why today I am proposing a new approach: one that will ensure ministers and officials can focus more on reforming REUL, and doing that faster.”
Today the government is tabling an amendment for Lords Report, which will replace the current sunset in the Bill with a list of the retained EU laws that we intend to revoke under the Bill at the end of 2023. This provides certainty for business by making it clear which regulations will be removed from our statue book, instead of highlighting only the REUL that would be saved. We will retain the vitally important powers in the Bill that allow us to continue to amend EU laws, so more complex regulation can still be revoked or reformed after proper assessment and consultation.”
Badenoch said the Government remains committed to deregulation. In her statement, she announced a specific package of proposals for employment law reform, including around working hours, and rules governing the transfer of employees between undertakings.
The move is likely to anger Tory Brexiteers who want to see the Government quickly move away from retained EU legislation. One such Conservative MP said they were “concerned” the Government had opted to make the changes in the House of Lords “given that this went through the Commons with such a big majority.”
EU law will remain binding in the UK unless it is explicitly repealed. The Bill will be amended to contain a list of the retained EU laws that the Government intends to revoke on 31 December 2023 – but anything not on that list will remain valid.