Liz Truss has vowed to ‘write to history’ all EU bureaucracy over the next year, removing up to 2,400 laws from UK law books.

It wasn’t just the rhetoric of the party conference. His government is considering passing legislation to give itself the power to simply roll back 40 years of EU harmonization legislation at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 2023. No list of targeted laws has been released.

Yet the successful European Legislation (Revocation and Reform) Bill is arguably one of the most significant bills ever before MPs, with the power to strike down laws ranging from workers’ rights to protection environmental regulations without even a debate in parliament.

European law professor Catherine Barnard and Hansard Society researchers Brigid Fowler and Tom West, who held a seminar on the issue on Wednesday to raise awareness, are helping navigate the convoluted schemes behind government rhetoric.

What did the government say?

The government’s bid to ‘take back control’ includes extinguishing up to 2,400 laws stemming from EU treaties, directives and regulations by the end of next year through the retained bill on European law (revocation and reform).

A government scoreboard shows that they cover 300 policy areas in 21 sectors, thus affecting most areas of law.

Government scoreboard outlining the sectors to which EU law relates. Photograph: Cabinet Office Dashboard October 2022

What are the main concerns?

The timetable is so telescoped – Jacob Rees-Mogg wanted a five-year timetable – that many have expressed concern about the lack of parliamentary oversight.

The environmental lobby is already strongly contesting the deregulation projects. Even Boris Johnson’s father Stanley said Jacob Rees needed to perform a “screaming U-turn” on aspects of the campaign.

Laws can be saved or updated according to the rules, but this will only happen if someone successfully pleads for them.

But there will be areas of the law where there won’t be strong campaign groups, and one wonders how any MP or member of the public can know what’s going on.

Whwhat laws are in effect the aims of the ministers?

The government’s scoreboard gives no idea of ​​its priorities but points out that the largest number of laws retained by the EU, 570, relate to the field of agriculture, livestock and the environment. Transport, as well as the banking and financial services sector, also has a high number of European laws – 424 and 374 respectively.

Fears that the government will roll back legislation derived from the EU Habitats Directive, which aims to protect biodiversity, as well as areas of special scientific interest and water quality, are already heightened.

High-level campaign groups are already questioning plans to free up land from regulation to create 38 investment zones in the Truss race for economic growth.

Environmentalist Chris Packham says he is “very worried”. Of the government’s assurances on the matter, he told BBC Two’s Newsnight: “When it comes to environmental regulations, should we believe them? Our rivers are filled with sewage and many more pollutants. We saw it this summer, so the confidence in the environment is not there”.

In a 13 posts Twitter feed the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said wildlife was “facing one of the biggest threats in decades” due to the government’s drive to create investment zones.

If they go through with their plans, nowhere will be safe. This map shows legally protected areas in purple and orange (the SACs and SPAs) mapped onto the districts, in green, that want areas for investment. Places where anything could be built anywhere. And these are just the beginning. 4/13

— RSPB England 🌍 (@RSPBEngland) September 23, 2022

It has since joined forces with other groups – including the National Trust, Wildlife and Countryside Link and the Wildlife Trusts – to fight the forward-looking policy. Between them, the coalition has about 15 million members.

What about workers’ rights?

Unions have previously expressed concern that workers’ rights laws stemming from the EU Working Time Directive are under threat.

Opposition parties fought hard during the Brexit process to keep the legislation.

In January 2021, the government considered an early repeal of some aspects of working time regulations, including the 48-hour working week, the inclusion of overtime in holiday pay, and other elements.

What stage is the bill at?

The first reading in parliament of the successful EU Legislation (Revocation and Reform) Bill took place on September 22 but went largely unnoticed, between the Queen’s funeral and the ill-fated mini budget.

“This is obviously a massive bureaucratic and legal task, with the sunset at the end of 2023. From that perspective, and all things being equal, the more time they have between passing the bill and this deadline, the better,” Fowler said. .

She also says it is “a point worth highlighting that the government has chosen to allocate civil service resources to this task over the next 15 months” at a time when civil servants may have a heavy workload in the face of other challenges.

Can ministers simply refuse to amend or update laws, and wait for time to pass?

The Institute for Public Policy Research warns: “Term 15 of the Retained EU Law Bill gives Ministers the freedom to make major changes to secondary legislation derived from the EU without the need for a Act of Parliament. In practice, this gives the government the freedom to change laws as it sees fit, not least because if ministers decide to do nothing, the sunset clause threatens the complete repeal of those laws by the end of 2023.”

Are there any repercussions if the UK goes too far in deviating from EU law?

Yes. If the government goes too far, for example, removing workers’ rights, it risks a trade war with the EU.

Under the equal opportunities agreements in the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) sealed by Lord Frost, the UK is allowed to deviate from the bloc’s rules, but not so much that this gives the UK a competitive advantage over its trade rivals. on the Continent and in Ireland.

“The [deal] allows the UK to deviate from EU rules on workers’ rights, but if the divergence affects trade and investment, the EU can launch the non-regression procedure against the UK” , says Barnard. “It involves consultation, followed by the creation of a special group of experts and ultimately retaliation against the UK if the UK is found to be in breach. It means tariffs.

How to save the laws?

Tom West outlines the options for MPs or Ministers.

Section 1.2 of the bill would allow a minister or deputy minister to “cut out”, or put a protective shield around, a piece of legislation that they wanted protected from the sunset powers of sunset statutes .

Or, under section 2.1 of the bill, they could extend sunsets to “a date or dates up to June 2026,” or possibly beyond. They could opt for a series of dates, not just a new expiration date.

How can laws be changed to UK versions?

Paragraph 47 of the government’s explanatory notes confirms that this is not a total bonfire, and some EU laws may be “reworded or updated or removed and amended”. In other words reworked in some cases and renamed in all cases in domestic law.

Clauses 15.2 and 15.3 allow for alternate laws while Clauses 12 and 13 give rewording powers, West says.