Updated Jan 31, 2022

UK Bill aims to cut retained EU red tape

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out plans to reduce the amount of red tape that is contained in EU laws retained by the UK following Brexit.

In accordance with the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, when the implementation period with the EU ended at 11 pm on 31 December 2020, the UK retained all directly applicable EU laws, subject to many, many amendments. This means that most EU Regulations and Decisions became UK law overnight and the UK government has the ability to amend those laws as it sees fit. However, it seems that Mr Johnson believes there is too much regulation in those laws and wants to cut it down to "mark the two-year anniversary of Getting Brexit Done".

As a result, a Brexit Freedoms Bill will be brought forward to make it easier to remove or amend outdated retained EU laws as part of a cross-government drive to reform, repeal and replace the EU laws we retained.

There are no details at the moment of which retained EU laws are being targeted or how. A government statement set out that many of the retained laws "often did not reflect the UK's own priorities or objectives".

It reads "Having regained our independence, we can now ensure that our regulations are tailor-made to the UK’s own needs. However, under current rules, reforming and repealing this pipeline of outdated EU law would take several years because of the need for primary legislation for many changes, even if minor and technical."

The government is therefore seeking, via the Bill, to end the special status that retained EU law has within the UK legislative framework. Retained EU Regulations, for example, have precedence on the statute books, which is "not compatible with our status as a sovereign, independent country".

Across the government, officials are currently undertaking a review of all retained EU laws to determine if they are beneficial to the UK. However, it is not known which benefits they are focusing on or how they will actually determine what a 'benefit' is.

Mr Johnson said, "Getting Brexit Done two years ago today was a truly historic moment and the start of an exciting new chapter for our country. We have made huge strides since then to capitalise on our newfound freedoms and restore the UK’s status as a sovereign, independent country that can determine its own future.

“The plans we have set out today will further unleash the benefits of Brexit and ensure that businesses can spend more of their money investing, innovating and creating jobs. Our new Brexit Freedoms Bill will end the special status of EU law in our legal framework and ensure that we can more easily amend or remove outdated EU law in future”.