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PM sets 2023 deadline for removing EU laws

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All EU-derived laws are to be ‘sunset’ by December 2023, meaning that change and uncertainty over health and safety duties and employee rights lie ahead.


The Brexit Freedoms Bill, introduced to Parliament on 22 September, means that all EU-derived legislation will be either saved, scrapped, or replaced by 31 December 2023. The previous deadline considered was June 2026.

Commenting, Colin Leckey and Rosie Moore at law firm Lewis Silkin, writing for Lexology.com, said: “Many employment laws will be affected by this proposal, including the Working Time Regulations, Agency Worker Regulations, TUPE and various health and safety regulations.

“There are serious concerns over whether it is realistic to review such a large quantity of legislation within such a tight timescale and with the proposed reduction in civil service jobs,” they added.

Liz Truss has set an earlier than planned deadline of December 2023 to save or scrap EU-derived laws. Photograph: Flickr / Number 10

Sarah Hooton, lawyer at Browne Jacobson, said: “This Bill has the potential to have significant employment law implications. A period of uncertainty for employers and employees alike is ahead.”

MPs are concerned the earlier deadline will mean that complex changes to thousands of EU-derived pieces of legislation will be rushed through.

Angus Robertson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, said that the plan was “nothing short of reckless”.

In an open letter to Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Secretary of State for Business, he said: “One of the most alarming clauses of the Bill is its wholesale ‘sun-setting’ of most of retained EU law by 31 December 2023, whereby these standards and protections would fall away from domestic law and no longer apply.

“Such a rushed ‘sunset’ date carries an unacceptable risk that vital law, on which the smooth functioning of sectors of the economy and society depends, simply drops off the UK statute book.”

The MP named holiday pay, safe limits on working hours and parental leave as potentially subject to removal or amendment.

However, lawyers have pointed out that the most likely consequence of the Bill – properly named the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill – is to stymie progress on workers’ rights.

Areas Labour says are in need of addressing include the end of exploitative practices like zero-hour contracts and fire and rehire.

However, says Colin Leckey, partner at Lewis Silkin, the Bill won’t allow for these changes because any new, replaced or changed law must not under the terms of the Bill ‘increase the regulatory burden’. “If a new UK working time law is introduced it can’t increase the regulatory burden – so, for example, it seems it would not be possible to take the opportunity to introduce a right to disconnect.”

Business Secretary, Jacob Rees Mogg said in the announcement: "Now that the UK has regained its independence, we have a fantastic opportunity to do away with outdated and burdensome EU laws, and to bring forward our own regulations that are tailor-made to our country’s needs.

"The Brexit Freedoms Bill will remove needless bureaucracy that prevents businesses from investing and innovating in the UK, cementing our position as a world class place to start and grow a business," he added.

Track the Bill's progress here

Read the government's announcement here

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