When the UK finally left the EU on 31 January 2020, it kept virtually all EU laws on the UK statute book. This was not straightforward and a detailed set of provisions was fought over in the withdrawal agreement with the EU and in the UK’s domestic withdrawal legislation. This left a great deal of EU regulation still part of UK law (as Retained EU law) unless and until amended by the UK legislature in the usual way.
Given that the UK had been an EU member since 1972, the vast bulk of the UK’s modern environmental legislation consists of Retained EU law. However, a group of Conservative Brexiteer MPs keen to eradicate EU rules that may restrict the UK’s new found ‘freedom’ to act alone, proposed that all remaining Retained EU Law should be examined and if not saved by a ‘sunset’ date (the end of 2023) should fall away and cease to apply. This would be the case even if Parliament simply ran out of time to give them each due consideration. A bill was introduced by Government to Parliament to that effect and has reached its final stages.
Given that over 1800 instruments are environmental in nature, environmental groups are alarmed at the prospect of important environmental protections being lost. We previously reported on a recent change to the proposals by the Government, to now identify approximately 161 EU-derived environmental instruments to be axed initially (out of a total of 600), whilst retaining a power for Government ministers to make decisions on the remainder after the end of the year. Read our analysis here.