The Government in the United Kingdom has dropped plans to get rid of European laws by the end of 2023.

The Retained EU Law Bill (REUL) will be amended, removing a clause that would have scrapped any EU-derived laws that hadn’t already been replaced, repealed, or integrated into UK domestic law by December.   

More than 2,400 pieces of EU legislation were kept in UK law at the end of the Brexit transition period. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) identified eight pieces of EU law that are no longer required in the UK. The regulations are known as statutory instruments.

“We have reviewed these laws in detail and are confident that removing them will not impact food safety or standards,” said the agency.     

Cutting it fine
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and consumer group Which? had been calling for a delay in the government’s proposal.

John Herriman, chief executive of CTSI, said: “While the announcement from the government is welcome, it is worth remembering how close to the wire this has been, and that the bill has been both a mammoth undertaking and a major distraction for government departments at a time when resources could have been allocated to tackling more pressing issues for consumers. The focus on Retained EU Law has also potentially created a logjam where progress in other areas, including the long-awaited product safety review has stalled.”

Herriman said the group would review the 600 pieces of legislation still at risk of being scrapped, to ensure that no vital protections for UK consumers or businesses are lost.

“The government needs to take the time to consult with stakeholders to properly assess what can be revoked from EU Law, and what changes need to be made to ensure we don’t risk undermining important consumer protection laws and that we have a robust system that meets the needs of the modern day.”

Nick von Westenholz, National Farmers Union director of Trade and Business Strategy, said the decision to revoke the end-of-year element was a sensible and pragmatic move.

“A systematic review of Retained EU Law makes a lot of sense, and Brexit provides an opportunity for improving the regulatory regime that governs farming and looks after our environment,” he said.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) supported the need to review EU-derived regulations but was against the “unnecessarily hasty approach”.

Louise Hosking, executive director of Environmental Health at the CIEH, said work remains to be done to ensure regulatory standards are protected.

“While we welcome this decision to remove the arbitrary sunset date, this is merely one clause in a wide-ranging bill. The bill still aims to review, repeal, or replace thousands of pieces of retained EU law, without any meaningful public consultation or parliamentary oversight,” she said.

Defra’s IT systems under scrutiny
Meanwhile, a report by the Public Accounts Committee has criticized Defra’s IT setup. It called for a “complete and coordinated overhaul” of systems at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to ensure safe food and water supply. Users include farmers, vets, scientists, and traders. 

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, deputy chair of the committee, said: “Defra’s IT systems are so outmoded and disconnected — where they exist at all, instead of paper forms — that in some cases the professionals who keep our food, water, and air safe have been forced to buy obsolete equipment just to fill in the forms to fulfill their regulatory responsibilities. We are facing rapidly spreading animal diseases, maybe the next pandemic, with systems that may rely on moving paper forms around. This cannot continue.”  

A Defra spokesperson said: “We have made significant progress on enhancing and improving the resilience of our current technology and digital services through an effective and wide-ranging investment plan. We have already delivered new and improved services to improve flood warnings, farming, and countryside schemes, and food imports and exports, developed with the input of end-users and customers.”

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