There has been considerable media coverage in the UK this week following the government’s announcement that it is to reduce the scope of its controversial Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill (Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill publications – Parliamentary Bills – UK Parliament).
Had this bill entered into law in its original form it would have resulted in all direct EU legislation such as EU Regulations and Decisions which is currently retained under UK law pursuant to post Brexit transitional arrangements (currently estimated to be around 4,800 laws) automatically cease to have effect on 31 December 2023 unless specifically retained or amended by a minister or devolved authority before then.
The government has though announced a major change to this plan – instead of this “sunset” arrangement applying to all such EU legislation it will now apply only to circa 600 specific pieces of legislation listed out in a new schedule to the bill (HL Bill 117(n) (parliament.uk)).
Based on our initial analysis this list feels heavily focussed on food, farming, agriculture and environment which is unsurprising given government statistics show that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has the highest volume of retained EU law assigned to it for review (1,671 pieces of law in comparison to the seven assigned to Cabinet Office).
In the IP and technology space the retained EU law included on this list looks to be relatively limited in comparison to the list of currently identified retained EU IP law published by the UK Intellectual Property Office (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/intellectual-property-and-retained-european-union-law-the-facts/retained-eu-law-for-intellectual-property) and primarily focussed on removing from the statute books administrative arrangements relating to the UK’s participation in the EU wide community design scheme prior to Brexit. (On 1 January 2021 registered Community designs and unregistered Community designs ceased to be valid in the UK and were immediately and automatically replaced by new equivalent UK rights).
It is important to be aware that the inclusion of EU legislation on this new list does not mean that legislation will definitely cease to apply in the UK from 31 December 2023. Inclusion on this list means that would happen only if the legislation in question has not been specifically retained or amended by a minister or devolved authority before then.
It is also important to be aware that it is not guaranteed that this bill will enter into law in this revised form (or at all) – there has been considerable disquiet from some in government about this change and the bill was already expected to face opposition in the House of Lords as a result of the powers it would grant ministers to repeal or amend existing laws using secondary legislation powers which are subject to less parliamentary scrutiny than primary legislation.
We shall continue to watch with interest the progress of this bill over the coming weeks and months and update accordingly.