Retained EU law is a copy of the EU law and rights that used to apply when the UK was a member of the EU and was brought into domestic law; this law is applicable in the UK at present.
The Retained EU Law (REUL) Bill was first introduced in the House of Commons in September 2022 and had, since then, substantial changes made to it. It is now in the so-called ‘final stages’ where the latest amendments are being considered. The Bill brings back the power to legislate to the UK Parliament, ends the special status of retained EU law and will enable retained EU law to be more easily amended, revoked, and replaced.
The Bill initially included a ‘sunset clause’ meaning that the about 5000 EU-derived rules would automatically expire after 31 December 2023 unless ministers had specifically decided to replace or retain them.
On the 15th of May, an amendment to drop the sunset clause was approved and was replaced with a list of 600 pieces of retained EU law to be set out in the Bill for revocation. This changed the default position that all REUL remains unless it is on the list.
Among the list of Regulations that should be revoked, are the 8 pieces of EURL identified by the FSA. The reasons given to revoke these is either because the regulations are inoperable because all the regulations amended by the Statutory Instruments have been previously revoked or replaced or because the Regulations have been superceded. These regulations include: the Food Enzymes Regulations 2009, the Food Additives (England) Regulations 2009 or the Regulations for foodstuffs suitable for people intolerant to gluten.
To note, however, that this is not a definite list of what will be revoked as Ministers are empowered to specify that entries in the list should not to be revoked.
On 22nd of May, the Lords had its third reading of the Bill and on the 24th the House of Commons considered the Lords’ amendments. Among other amendments, the Lords introduced one on “Environmental protection and food standards” which said that the Regulations “may not be made by relevant national authority […] unless the relevant national authority is satisfied that the regulations do not reduce the environmental protection arising from the EURL or reduce the level of protection of consumers in relation to food safety, composition or labelling of food arising from the EU retained law to which the provisions relate”.
However, at their meeting on the 24th May, the Commons disagreed with this amendment because it is not considered necessary to maintain protection or food standards.
The next meeting will take place in the House of Lord on 6th June. The secretariat will continue to monitor changes and possible impact for the sector.