On Tuesday the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill starts its progress through the Houses of Parliament. The main purpose of the bill is to end all remaining laws that came from the EU on 31st December 2023.
Legislation should always be open to review: the world changes, new evidence comes along, things could be better targeted. But this process is not that, this is a bonfire of regulations just because they originated within the EU.
The Bill provides a mechanism by which legislation can be assimilated into UK law, but there is no framework provided for decision-making, no consultation with stakeholders, no oversight processes and very little time. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have the highest number of retained laws to be assessed, 570, across food and food safety, animal welfare and environment amongst others. Whether this is effectively achievable within the given timeframe is open to question.
The UK was the driving force behind much of the EU environmental and animal welfare legislation. For example, the EU Habitats Regulation was built on the UK’s Wildlife and Countryside Act and has provided protection for nature and our special wild places for 30 years. If the government is going to get rid of the Habitats Regulation, we need a discussion about what should replace it. Indeed the Law Commission undertook a review of wildlife legislation in 2015 and that should be the model for our approach to reforming EU legislation.
If we really want to deliver on the Government’s ambitions to halt the decline of nature by 2030, as set out in the Environment Act, then we should take the opportunity to analyse what has worked, what hasn’t, and how we could do better. Instead there will be an ideological eradication of laws with little thought of the implications on businesses or consumers or even what needs to come next.
Tuesday’s second reading of the Bill is only the start of a long process before this is enacted as legislation. We hope that the new UK Government is open to constructive conversations based around clear evidence, reasoning and logic. We will be working with other environmental NGOs and wider society in the coming months to stop the harm that this bill could do and to help #SaveButterflies!