Blog: Revoking years of EU law exposes the insanity of Brexit UK – The National

THEY say a week is a long time in politics – and this week has certainly felt it! Intent on further undermining the devolution settlement and Scottish democracy, the UK Government is pushing ahead with its flawed Retained EU Law (REUL) Bill later today.

My inbox has been flooded with constituents getting in touch to express their concern about REUL. And no wonder; it is not so much a bonfire of regulations but a bonfire of governance.

In seeking to bring the statute book back to the 19th century, the Tories are intent on dragging the rest of us with them.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. What exactly is the legislation that is to be debated today? In a nutshell, it is a bill which seeks to revoke all EU-derived legislation from the statute book by the end of 2023.

In other words, no more EU laws by the end of this year. They will simply cease to exist, whether there are replacement laws in place or not, creating a legal vacuum opposed by, well, everybody from the Law Society of Scotland to the NFU, fishing organisations, trades unions, local government and indeed our national Parliament in Edinburgh.

This is a bill which will affect every branch of government, with only a few ministries getting the option of extending their deadline to 2026. It also doesn’t make clear what, if anything, will replace the rules that will be binned.

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Some do ask though, what has the EU ever done for us? Well, beyond ensuring peace in Northern Ireland, funding infrastructure projects in regions long neglected by the UK Government and providing freedom of movement across the continent for people from all walks of life, the EU has also helped contribute more than 4000 laws.

These laws cover everything from workers’ rights to food standards to environmental protections. Introduced over a 47-year period, it is a vast body of legislation.

And the Tories want to revoke all of it in less than 12 months. Given the civil service probably can’t even read that amount of legislation in that time (at least not without ignoring all their other responsibilities), this bill is an ideological attack by Brexit Tories, pure and simple.

The implications of this for the lives of the people on these islands are staggering. Should this bill pass, then come the end of this year there is a real danger of a race to the bottom. With no standards or regulations to guide businesses, corners will be cut and consumer safety threatened. Environment degradation is inevitable at a time when climate change continues to break records and cause chaos.

Workers’ rights such as the working time directive will be at risk of being repealed, meaning that long-established rights such as limited working hours, paid annual leave and rest breaks are all at risk.

As Catherine Barnard, professor of EU law and employment law at the University of Cambridge put it: “It’s no longer a 19th-century world we live in; we live in a highly complex, highly regulated world.

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“Just look at the airline industry. Most people want it to be highly regulated because they want to get into a plane that is safe.”

I will not even mention how this bill undermines devolution by legislating in areas specifically within the competence of Holyrood, the Welsh Senedd or the Northern Irish Assembly. Nor will I mention that this is exactly what we warned would happen with the passing of the UK Internal Market Act.

We have tried to be the sane legislators in the insane asylum.

The SNP put forward amendments which would have called for ministers to publish statements and impact assessments before amending retained EU law.

We also pushed for the deadline to be extended further – after all, perhaps there might be something that the UK could do better than the EU, unlikely as that is. We also called for the bill not to apply to areas of devolved competence.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour enters civil war over blocking of gender reform bill

A sensible government would have listened and agreed. Yet any pretence of sense is long gone. Instead, only “the Project” remains as this hapless government gathers more and more power to itself, undermining even the idea (which I reject of course, but it is better than untrammelled power to here today gone tomorrow ministers) of parliamentary sovereignty.

Those who voted for Brexit surely did not vote to give unparalleled power to ministers to revoke laws without any parliamentary scrutiny. Surely? You only need to look around to realise that we can do so much better than this.

The solution is not a Labour government who are the handmaidens of Tory Brexit and diehard Unionism.

Independence back in the European Union is ever more clearly the only way to guarantee the rights and standards that our workers and businesses rely upon. The sooner we deliver this, the better.

In the meantime, we will continue to defend Scotland from the worst excesses of Brexit, but with an 80-seat majority, I fear the die is cast, yet another example of why we need independence in Europe.

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