The potential of an independent UK that has a place in the world is one of the reasons why the country voted to leave the European Union. This is why, as Secretary of Commerce, I have prioritized negotiations with the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), sending a signal of how the post-Brexit UK can thrive when it thinks beyond our immediate neighbours, joining the group of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
Therefore, now that I have been given responsibility for EU laws that remain in the UK’s statute book, I want to make sure we do it in a way that maximizes our competitive advantage. Yes, of course, I want to make sure that we remove any unnecessary rules that we have inherited from Brussels over the last 50 years, as soon as possible. But the real reward is a unique opportunity to revisit these rules and decide whether they are fit for our economy, whether we can scrap them, or whether we can reform and improve them and help boost economic growth.
The Government has introduced the Retained EU Law Act (REUL) so that we can end the special status of Retained EU Law. It ensures that, for the first time in a generation, the UK statute will not recognize the supremacy of EU law or EU legal principles. As the bill is currently being drafted, almost all REULs will be automatically repealed in late 2023 unless a statutory instrument is enacted to preserve them.
When I was put in charge of this bill, I saw that, with the default state of preservation of EU law due to expire at the end of this year, Whitehall departments focused on which laws should be preserved by the deadline, rather than pursuing significant reform Government and business want to see. I decided a new approach was needed; one that gives ministers and officials the freedom to focus on reforming REUL more and do it faster.
This week we are publishing the list of retained EU rules that will be repealed by the end of 2023. This gives business confidence that it will be clear which rules will disappear, not just which REULs will be kept. We will retain the powers that allow us to continue to amend EU law so that more complex laws can be repealed or reformed after appropriate assessment and consultation. My priority will be to give new impetus to the project in order to identify and eliminate even more unnecessary legislation. Most importantly, by the end of 2023, we will end the dominance of EU law and give our courts the opportunity to move away from the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice. This is how we take full control of our rights – as promised in the Conservative Party’s manifesto.
I listened to businesses large and small and heard concerns about burdensome rules and regulations costing them time and money. Taking back control of our rights is not only about ending the jurisdiction of the European Court in the UK, but also about bringing these laws into line with the UK’s goals: reducing the regulatory burden and controlling the flow of new regulation. I understand that when governments restrict businesses with bureaucracy, it holds them back, makes them less competitive in global markets, and stifles domestic growth.
Since the introduction of the REUL Act, the government has made it clear that we will deliver on Brexit promises without compromising on our high standards. We will not abolish any law because of this. The rights we will retain are essential to the effective functioning of business and industry. We will not reduce workers’ rights and protections, abolish maternity rights or jeopardize the high environmental standards currently in place, and ensure that we do not repeal legislation required to comply with our international obligations.
I am pleased to inform you that the government has already reformed or invalidated over 1000 REULs. In addition to the list of around 600 that will appear in the bill, the Financial Services and Markets Bill and the Public Procurement Bill – both of which are nearing completion in Parliament – will repeal around 500 items of REUL. All in all, this represents a significant removal of EU rules from our books by the end of 2023. In addition, the government is committed to reducing regulatory burdens on businesses and helping to boost economic growth, and our Edinburgh UK financial services reforms include over 30 regulatory reforms in to unlock investment and boost growth in cities across the UK.
As part of this push for more deregulation, I am announcing today that we will make improvements to employment law that could help businesses save around £1 billion a year while protecting workers’ rights. We will consult on reducing unnecessary bureaucracy in recording working hours, streamlining liaison with employees when a business is transferred to new owners, and giving up to 5 million UK workers more freedom to change jobs by reducing non-compete clauses.
Getting rid of the EU law in the UK should be more than a race to a deadline. This should include making sure our rights work for the benefit of those who exercise them. Regulatory reform is an integral part of the Prime Minister’s mission to boost the UK economy; a mission that puts business, consumers and the British public first.