Lord David Frost told the House of Lords this week that he would conduct a review of EU labour law – including, for example, the Working Time Regulations – that transferred to UK statute through the EU (Withdrawal) Act, popularly known as the Brexit Bill.
He said he wanted to end the “special status” that had been granted to EU legislation through the Act, which gives EU-derived rules precedence over UK statute where they contradict; and that the government will seek to create a ‘fast-track’ method of doing away with laws it wishes to repeal.
As Frost told peers: “We will look at developing a tailored mechanism for accelerating the repeal or amendment of this retained EU law — in a way which reflects the fact that, as I have made clear, laws agreed elsewhere have intrinsically less democratic legitimacy than laws initiated by the government of this country.”
Speaking to the Financial Times, labour lawyers warned that there is no practical justification for a new mechanism to quickly scrap laws, except to avoid the democratic process.
The UK government already has the power to change employment law through the normal Parliamentary process, so inventing new ways to do so has raised suspicions.
George Peretz QC described the proposed new mechanism as a tool to “alter swaths of important law by ministerial flick of the pen and with no adequate debate or scrutiny”.
Professor Catherine Barnard, an expert on EU Law at Cambridge University, added: “It would appear to be creating an important way for the UK to diverge, quickly, without full parliamentary scrutiny. It could make it very hard to identify where there is divergence.”