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UK Revocation of EU Law

On 22nd September 2022, the Department for Business published the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to phase out much of the retained EU law so that it terminates on 31st December 2023. 

The Bill, if passed, would also abolish the principle of supremacy of EU law and repeal directly effective EU law rights and obligations in UK law by the end of 2023. At present any EU decision reached before 1st January 2021 is binding on UK courts unless the Government departs from it, however the Bill would make UK law the default meaning Courts and Tribunals will not be able to use EU decisions to help it to interpret UK law. 

The planned phasing out will have a huge impact across the board in all regulation in the UK. Under the European Union Withdrawal Act most UK laws in existence on or before 31st December 2020 have been preserved. These are referred to as ‘retained law’. The aim of the bill is to revoke all retained law by the end of next year, not be changed or amended, but unless positive action is taken by the Government, all retained law will be ripped up and would no longer be in force. This is hugely significant; the Government’s own data suggests that there are 2400 pieces of retained law across 21 government departments. 

From an Employment Law perspective, the 2400 pieces of retained law includes UK domestic legislation implementing EU legislation such as the Working Time Regulations, the Equality Act, TUPE, and the Part-time Worker Regulations. It also includes all decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union made on or before 31st December 2020. 

This could see a monumental change to our Employment sphere (and could stretch across many areas of law in the UK).  

What could happen? 

As set out the Bill aims to remove all EU derived UK legislation within the next 15 months, by the end of 2023.  

The Bill provides for extension periods up until 2026. It therefore seems conceivable to see the 2023 deadline moved back given the scale of the task and positive action required. So, we may not see many changes for some time. 

Secondly, should the Government start making a huge level of changes to employment rights, it is also possible that we see the EU take action against the UK Government for breaching the terms of The Trade and Cooperation Agreement although it has been demonstrated that the Government is willing to breach international agreements and the threat of legal action may not be enough to deter it, the approach to agreements with the EU has set an alarming precedent. However, it is hoped that the Government spend less time pushing the narrative of taking back control and, after reviewing and considering whether issues exist or if legislation would simply be abolished due to its derivation from the EU, much of the current legislation from the EU remains in force. 

Finally, it would seem possible, if not likely for the retained EU law to be restated as UK law, essentially after revoking the EU version the exact same legislation is established meaning it is UK law rather than EU law. This would be an entirely political step that would benefit the politicians but would effectively mean that it would be vital to study the new laws to make certain that nothing has changed. Essentially, this could be a politically motivated step that may still cause headaches for employers, businesses, advisers and the Courts and Tribunals to ensure any changes (however small) are noted.  

It is important to stress that, at present, the Bill has not been passed and it is unknown what will happen. However, keeping a close eye on developments and what the implementation of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill means for the UK is vastly important ensuring all businesses and individuals are alive to any legislative changes that may arise in the future.

 If you have any further queries or would like to book an appointment, please call 01256 320555 or email us at mail@clarkeandson.co.uk.

Alex May

Employment & Litigation Solicitor

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