Brexit Sunset Provisions Cut Back
When the UK left the European Union, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 established a body of retained EU law. The purpose of the legislation was to ensure continuity and legal certainty in the more immediate term after Brexit. All EU and EU-derived legislation as it stood immediately before the UK’s departure was preserved on the UK’s statute books. However, particularly in light of Brexit’s stated aims, this was not intended as a long-term solution.
Enter the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, intended to end the special status of retained EU law in the UK. The Bill is designed to make it easier to amend, revoke, and replace EU law in the UK. In its original form, the Bill would have caused some 4,800 pieces of legislation to cease to have effect at the end of 2023 unless specifically retained or amended by a minister or devolved authority before 31 December. Needless to say, the disruption and potential costs for businesses would have been immense had it proceeded in this form.
Last month, the Government announced its plans to reduce the scope of the Bill significantly, leaving a list of around 600 pieces of legislation to be automatically “sunset” at the end of the year. The newly shortened list includes a considerable amount of retained EU law that is already defunct or otherwise unnecessary now that the UK is no longer part of the EU.
The new list is contained in the Schedule of retained EU Law (external link). Any legislation in that schedule will be revoked, but that which is not included will remain in effect as assimilated law. It is also important to note that some legislation listed in the Schedule may still be spared revocation by Ministers if the need arises.
It is recommended that you review the full list in the Schedule in order to determine whether or not your business will be affected; however, much of the legislation included is either no longer needed (for example, has since been replaced, or pertains to requirements/schemes/agreements that are no longer in operation and/or applicable to the UK) or relates to areas that will not be relevant to the typical SME. A great deal, for example, is related to food, fishing, and agriculture, but in many cases is no longer relevant to the UK.
The Bill has not yet received royal assent and at the time of writing, amendments are still being considered. It is unlikely, however, that the key feature in this context – the list of laws to be revoked – will change significantly or revert to its original size.
As the year progresses, we will continue to monitor developments in this area and update our document templates and information as the need arises.
The contents of this Newsletter are for reference purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Independent legal advice should be sought in relation to any specific legal matter.