‘TIC Tac’. The UK is facing a race against time to get thousands of European directives that have accumulated over decades into British law, and are now being reviewed before they expire as 2023 draws to a close. This is already the largest legal review in the contemporary history of the British country.
The Government has identified 2,417 respecting that they come from the legal body of the European Union (EU), although the National Archive, which preserves the nation’s official documents, raises that figure to nearly 4,000, and pieces could continue to emerge for years. Environmental and manufacturing standards, agricultural regulations and labor rights are among the most exposed extremes, although almost all legal spaces are affected.
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has inherited the urgency with which Boris Johnson had promised to destroy those European directives and this week the House of Commons has given the green light to the mechanism to automatically repeal them, with exceptions, in less than twelve months.
“I don’t know of another example in practically any part of the world in which there has been such a radical effort to eliminate legislation without consideration. It is unprecedented,” told EFE Joelle Grogan, legal expert at the “think tank” no UK academic in a Changing Europe.
Sunak, who in his campaign to seize the leadership of the “Tories” published a video throwing European laws into a paper shredder, has pleased the most eurosceptic sector of the conservatives, while receiving harsh criticism from the opposition, which he believes the rush to wipe out decades of regulatory work will prevent proper parliamentary scrutiny.
The mechanism that the Government has designed gives it the powers to replace any piece of European legislation with articles that it considers “achieve the same or similar objectives” as the Community directive, or even include the “alternative provisions” that it deems appropriate.
Despite the fact that the mechanism that Parliament is processing to comply with these plans leaves the door open to postponing the decision on certain particular provisions until 2026, experts warn of the legal uncertainty that companies and workers may be faced with when the expiration clause, in December of this year.
“We will see a lot of litigation in which, for example, a food safety company would realize that a law that established certain standards for a product, or certain labeling, has disappeared, so they will decide to stop applying it. But the regulator will try to argue that those standards are still expected to be met,” Grogan argued.
The situation is further complicated in light of the Trade and Cooperation Treaty that London and Brussels signed before Brexit, which requires the United Kingdom to align itself with community standards in many areas. If the Executive allows certain nearby directives such as the environment and labor rights to expire, the EU could argue that it is violating the Brexit agreement.
The legal titanic facing the country has received little media attention until now, overshadowed by issues such as the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol, so most of the reformed companies that will be affected are unaware of its consequences.
Only 4% of UK firms “fully” understood the implications of the government blueprints, according to a survey by the UK Chambers of Commerce, while 71% don’t know details about those blueprints or aren’t even aware that they exist.