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Block REUL Bill to protect UK democracy, says lawyers

Ministers must block the Retained EU Law (REUL) Bill from being passed or the UK is at risk of granting unchecked powers to the government, legal experts have said.  

The controversial bill went before the House of Lords yesterday, with ministers considering whether to scrap more than 3,700 laws retained from the UK’s time in the European Union.  

These laws encompass everything from air quality, water quality and habitat protections to consumer rights, employment conditions and food standards.  

Under the REUL Bill, each law would need to be approved, replaced or amended by the end of this year when any laws yet to be considered will be automatically discarded.  

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Expert lawyers Sir Jeffrey Jowell KCMG KC of Blackstone Chambers and Jack Williams of Monckton Chambers says this leaves government ministers with enormous law-making powers.  

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.’ 

The expert analysis warns that the proposed law would likely result in a lack of proper scrutiny and debate on existing and future laws which affect nearly every aspect of society.  

Passing the REUL Bill would mean the public, members of parliament and devolved legislatures would have no say on what decades old laws are kept, changed and discarded.  

Experts also warned that this could throw the UK into a regulatory nightmare, as it will be impossible to predict which laws will be altered or thrown out.  

Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB said: ‘This detailed analysis of the Retained EU Law Bill exposes a deeply concerning picture that the speed, scale and reach of the Bill will strip our decision-makers and representatives of the ability to fully scrutinise the thousands of pieces of legislation that affect each and every one of us in the UK, including important environmental law. 

‘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.’ 

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm

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