The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 (“the Act”) became law on 29 June, after a parliamentary process filled with lively debates, major amendments and multiple rounds of ping pong. And while the Bill was subject to a big change when its automatic sunset was removed, it mostly remained intact with a duty to report regularly added.
This article introduces our updated resources:
- Our research briefing looks at the Act from a devolved perspective.
- Our timeline explains key dates up to June 2026.
- Examples of the Act in practice;
- Our infographic shows how Welsh and UK Ministers can make changes to REUL; and
- Our clause generator gives a quick summary of the Act’s provisions.
To minimise disruption when exiting the EU, the UK converted EU law to domestic law and called it retained EU law (REUL). This meant that pre-Brexit laws stayed in place with the aim of avoiding gaps in important areas like product standards, animal welfare and employment law. REUL became a distinct body of law and there are different views on what should be done with it.
The Act puts some of the UK Government plans for REUL into place and grants powers to UK and Welsh Ministers to make future changes.
The Welsh Government opposed the legislation from the start, believing that REUL works well and could be updated as needed.
The Senedd refused consent for the Bill on two occasions, in March 2023 and June 2023.
- revokes some REUL so that it expires on 31 December 2023. This is the REUL listed on Schedule 1, EU-derived rights, the principle of supremacy and general principles of EU law;
- renames remaining REUL “assimilated law” from 1 January 2024;
- grants UK and Welsh Ministers powers to amend, repeal and replace REUL and assimilated law more easily;
- grants UK and Welsh Ministers powers to recreate the effect of REUL supremacy to a limited extent in relation to specific instruments;
- provides domestic courts with greater discretion to depart from REUL case law; and
- repeals the Business Impact Target as part of other regulatory reforms.
The Act sets the below timeline.
Reporting periods: The UK Government must report every six months to the UK Parliament within 30 days of the reporting period dates listed above. Reports must give a summary of the REUL dashboard, explain changes made to REUL and set out plans to remove or reform REUL in the following reporting period.
Examples of the Act in practice
Here are some examples of the Act in practice at the Senedd.
The procedure for regulations implementing parts of the Windsor Framework was changed from the affirmative to the negative procedure. This meant that, instead of needing the Senedd’s approval to become law, Members had 40 days to object before the regulations automatically became law.
The Welsh Government’s Bill as introduced defined which legislation should be considered primary legislation which included retained direct EU law (RDEUL). According to the Legislation, Justice and Constitution (LJC) Committee, including RDEUL as primary legislation could cause confusion because the Act downgrades RDEUL to secondary legislation. The Welsh Government agreed to amend the definition in the Bill as a result.
The Welsh Government and Senedd can be bypassed during REUL reform because the UK Government and the UK Parliament can make changes in devolved areas without obtaining consent from the Welsh Ministers or the Senedd.
Nevertheless, a curious situation has emerged.
The Welsh Government has notified LJC Committee of three situations where UK Ministers have sought, and been granted, consent from Welsh Ministers to make changes to REUL.
LJC Committee is pursuing whether consent arrangements may have been agreed outside of existing devolution practises. So far, three Ministers have described their experiences:
- Minister for Rural Affairs and Trefnydd shared correspondence from Lord Benyon in July seeking “formal consent” to implement parts of the Windsor Framework.
- Minister for Climate Change confirmed in September that the UK Government has committed not to use its powers in devolved areas without consent. She said that, had Welsh Ministers refused consent or not given their decision in time, the regulations would not have been laid in the UK Parliament. The Minister added that Welsh Ministers were given “a very tight timeframe” to consider consent.
- Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution confirmed on 12 October that no mechanism’s been agreed but he’d emphasised the need for a clear process in writing to the UK Government.
The Bill’s sunset clause, that would’ve automatically revoked the majority of REUL, has been replaced by a list of 587 pieces of REUL that’ll expire at the end of 2023, Schedule 1. UK and Welsh Ministers can exempt REUL from Schedule 1, thus saving it, but must do so by 31 October 2023.
Welsh Government’s initial review found no issues with the contents of Schedule 1 and it said it needn’t use its powers to exempt anything from it. It later notified committees that it wanted to save some items, including on biocidal products and air pollution.
The UK Government saved all of these except the National Emissions Ceilings Regulations which the Welsh Government wants to replace but the UK Government doesn’t. These are described as “vital for reducing air pollution” by ClientEarth and 47 others. The Minister for Climate Change said she’d keep committees updated, and answered questions on this at the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee on 26 October, but time has run out for Welsh Ministers to use their powers to save the regulations.
The infographic below shows how Welsh or UK Ministers could change REUL under the Act.
Use our clause generator for a quick summary of the Act’s sections. Select all or view them by theme, then click on a section number to generate a summary.