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The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 – a happy new year?

Published on 25 October 2023

The question

How will the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 (the Act) impact UK businesses?

The key takeaway

31 December 2023 will mark the beginning of the UK’s divergence from EU law. Under the Act, around 600 pieces of legislation across 16 Government departments will be revoked and some key EU law principles will no longer be applicable. The Act represents more of a post-Brexit tidying up exercise than a wide-scale reform as had initially been planned, meaning more certainty for businesses as the legislation that is due to be revoked has now been specified. However, further change is on the horizon as the Government looks to redefine the legal landscape post-Brexit and businesses should stay alert to wider reform plans.

The background

From September 2022, when the Act was first introduced into parliament as a bill, the Government faced mounting pressures and waves of criticism from a broad spectrum of people, companies, and bodies about its approach to post-Brexit legislation. In bill form, the Government had initially planned to sunset all retained EU law, meaning thousands of pieces of EU legislation on the statute books on 31 December 2023 would have been automatically repealed unless actively assimilated into UK law by MPs. These plans, originally dubbed the “Brexit bonfire” would have seen seismic changes to consumer law, employment law and product regulation through the proposed revocation of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (CCRs), Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008, Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 2006 and the Commercial Agents Regulations 1993, for example.

The development

The Act received Royal Assent in June 2023. Following a U-turn by the Government, the Act will facilitate more of a tidying-up exercise, not a “bonfire”. Now, under the Act almost 600 pieces of legislation, which are considered obsolete or no longer needed, will be revoked on 31 December 2023. All other retained EU law will remain in force unless and until reformed by the relevant Government department (see the Government’s Keeling Schedule for more detail, as reported in our Summer 2023 Snapshots edition).
Why is this important?

Whilst the Act will not implement sweeping deregulation at the end of the year, businesses should keep an eye on the Government’s wide-reaching programme of reforms. In particular, the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill will represent substantial reform due to enhanced consumer protections, particularly around subscription services (again, see our Summer 2023 Snapshots edition for more on this) as well as the Government’s product safety review, which launched at the start of August 2023.

Any practical tips?

Compliance departments should reflect on the list of regulation to be revoked and assess the potential consequences relevant to their operations. Businesses operating in the food, agricultural products and chemicals industries may wish to further assess the impact of the Act, as there are a number of patchwork EU regulations which relate to these industries being revoked.

Autumn 2023