How Much Will Repealing EU Laws Change Environmental Regulation in the UK?
Feb 27 2023
The UK government's proposed Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill has been the subject of much controversy and criticism. The bill, which the government calls the "Brexit Freedoms Bill," could potentially overturn thousands of legal protections that regulate wildlife, limit air and water pollution, and regulate chemicals and food. These protections have been developed over many years and have been incorporated into UK law following Brexit.
The bill aims to remove all retained EU law within a short timeframe. Ministers would be allowed to revoke, replace, restate, or update retained EU law without proper parliamentary oversight under the proposed bill. This has raised concerns among lawyers and environmentalists, who believe that the UK could fall into legal chaos and its climate and biodiversity targets could be undermined, particularly when urgent action is needed.
Under the proposed bill, the UK government would have little more than a year to review and make decisions related to thousands of laws, which could lead to significant uncertainties and unforeseen consequences. The lack of proper parliamentary oversight also means that less effective regulation could be introduced, risking the removal of key environmental protections.
The bill poses several risks and challenges, including the loss of protections related to biodiversity, species and habitats, air and water pollution, food safety, chemical use, and pollution from agriculture. Additionally, employment rights, consumer rights, and regulations governing health and safety are also at risk.
Critics of the bill have called for the government to abandon it immediately, arguing that any review of the laws retained from the EU should be undertaken with great care and sufficient time to avoid negative consequences for the environment and public interest. The government's own environmental commitments could be put at risk by the bill.
Moreover, the bill could have far-reaching implications for businesses operating in the UK. Companies could be forced to run their operations while uncertain about rules and regulations by which they operate, with the possibility of sudden and significant changes that could disrupt their operations.
There is also a danger that environmental protections in the UK could fall behind other countries, including those in the EU. The government has already missed a deadline to set new targets for air, water, and biodiversity protection under the 2021 Environment Act. By removing these protections, the UK could risk falling further behind in its commitments to tackling climate change and protecting the environment.
Despite the concerns, the bill has progressed to committee stage in the Commons, where experts and interest groups are weighing in with proposed amendments. However, the proposed bill could lead to a chaotic and inefficient review that creates red-tape for the government while threatening fundamental protections.
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