Out-Law News 2 min. read

Sweeping UK ‘sunset’ of retained EU law by end of 2023 dropped

Aerial View of London Houses of Parliament

UK legislation derived from the EU that was retained on the UK statute book at the point of Brexit will no longer be revoked en masse at the end of this year, the UK government has announced.

A targeted list of around 600 specific pieces of secondary legislation and EU legislation is expected to be revoked at the end of 2023 instead.

The move comes amidst pressure on the UK government to remove the so-called ‘sunset clause’ from the Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill, which it introduced into parliament in September last year.

The sunset clause’s function was to ensure retained EU law (REUL) not otherwise preserved or replaced in UK law before the end of 2023 would be automatically repealed at the year’s end.

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,” she said.

David Thorneloe of Pinsent Masons, who specialises in government affairs, said: “The sunset clause had been criticised by business because of the uncertainty around which laws among more than 4,000 affected would remain in place at the end of 2023. To replace it, the government has tabled a Schedule listing around 600 specific pieces of secondary legislation and EU legislation that will be revoked. Stakeholders will want to examine the new Schedule to assess its impact.”

The REUL Bill is currently before the House of Lords for scrutiny. The report stage in the Lords begins on 15 May. Opponents of the Bill have requested changes to the sunset clause and are expected to welcome the amendments. Critics are, however, expected to continue to press for changes to the broad powers the Bill gives to government to reform EU-derived laws by secondary legislation.

Badenoch said the government remains committed to deregulation through the revocation of REUL from the UK statute book. In her statement, she announced a specific package of proposals for employment law reform, including around working hours, rules governing the transfer of employees between undertakings, and the use of non-compete clauses.

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