HomeWeatherScrapping EU laws will undermine Parliament, say legal analysts

Scrapping EU laws will undermine Parliament, say legal analysts

The Government’s controversial plan to scrap EU laws by the end of the year undermines parliamentary sovereignty, according to legal analysts.

If passed, the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill would see around 4,000 laws reviewed and left to expire unless their retention is approved by ministers.

Critics of the Bill, which is to go before the House of Lords on Thursday, say it is undemocratic and gives too much power to ministers.

This Bill would fundamentally undermine how democracy functions in the UK – which is why we are calling for the Bill to be dropped entirely

Angus Eames, ClientEarth

Environmental groups in particular are worried it will remove key protections for nature and food safety.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said on Wednesday that its members support reviewing EU laws but do not want to see the process rushed through in less than a year.

A Government spokesperson said the Bill will remove “burdensome” EU law and will not compromise environmental standards.

In a new legal analysis commissioned by ClientEarth, the RSPB and WWF-UK, lawyers Sir Jeffrey Jowell KC and Jack Williams dismissed claims that the Bill would promote parliamentary supremacy as “blatantly hollow”.

They said the Bill would undermine Parliament’s sovereignty by transferring its law-making powers to individual ministers and this would be “virtually free” from scrutiny by the electorate and other members of Parliament.

There are clearly important questions to be asked about a path that can only be described as unconstitutional

Beccy Speight

In its current form, they said, the Bill would threaten the UK’s international obligations on environmental standards and violate the rule of law by making it “impossible” to predict which laws would be kept or removed.

ClientEarth lawyer Angus Eames said: “The threat the Retained EU Law Bill poses cannot be overstated. If passed, it could maim efforts to address the climate and biodiversity crises, put the health of millions at risk and subvert the function of the UK’s political system.

“Decisions on the health of our environment, the safety of our food and our longstanding protections as consumers cannot be left in the hands of current and future ministers without the input and oversight of Parliament – and this legal analysis makes that painfully clear.

“This Bill would fundamentally undermine how democracy functions in the UK – which is why we are calling for the Bill to be dropped entirely.”

Farming minister Mark Spencer said at the NFU conference on Tuesday that no important environmental laws will be allowed to inadvertently expire and claimed civil servants will review every piece of legislation.

The Government spokesperson said: “The Retained EU Law Bill will enable us to amend or remove burdensome retained EU law and ensure we can create the best regulatory environment in the UK to drive economic growth, boost innovation and develop a competitive advantage in future technology.

“We are committed to working collaboratively with Parliament to deliver this programme of work. That’s why we have ensured this Bill contains robust scrutiny mechanisms that will enable the appropriate scrutiny of any amendments or repeals of retained EU law.

“Any reforms will not come at the expense of the UK’s already high environmental standards, and ministers have been clear that we will maintain our international obligations.”

Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB, said: “In leaving the EU we were promised that we would now be free to replace continent-spanning legislation with laws and regulations that would recognise the specific needs of the UK.

“If done well this could be a real opportunity to tackle the nature and climate emergency and fulfil our international commitments to protecting and restoring nature.

“However, with at least 1,800 pieces of legislation relating to the environment alone, the scale of this task becomes apparent.

“We do not know what will replace the EU legislation, but if the Government remains committed to their 2023 deadline, there are clearly important questions to be asked about a path that can only be described as unconstitutional.”

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