The UK government has abandoned its plan to revoke all retained EU law (save for any legislation expressly maintained or replaced by UK law) at the end of 2023.

Rather, a targeted list of 600 pieces of EU legislation is expected to be revoked, with all other legislation being retained as the default position.

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The Sunset Clause

The initial proposal, known as the “sunset clause”, included in the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, was introduced into parliament in September 2022.

The bill would have automatically revoked all retained EU law by 31 December 2023 unless ministers specifically replaced or decided to retain them.

The U-turn comes after pressure from opposition parties, as well as certain commentators and businesses, who were concerned about the impact of the sunset clause on the UK economy and leaving possible gaps in the legislative landscape.

Concerns were raised that important legislation could be revoked unintentionally due to the tight time frames placed upon ministers to work through significant volumes of legislation.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch acknowledged that the deadline had created “legal uncertainty” for businesses.

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The Law Society

The Law Society has welcomed the government’s decision, with President Lubna Shuja commenting: “The government’s decision to remove the sunset clause and replace it with a list of the retained EU laws that it intends should fall away at the end of 2023 is the right decision.

This should provide some certainty for businesses, lawyers and citizens alike.

We await the list being published. It is essential there is sufficient time to review affected legislation and consider the repercussions in all areas of law.”

Indeed, the Law Society had previously recommended, as a minimum, that the 31 December 2023 deadline should be extended to allow proper time for review and consultation.

As noted in our previous article on the “sunset clause”, it was a notable concern that the potential “en-masse” repeal of a large swathe of existing EU legislation, without proper time for consultation, carried the risk of creating a challenge for businesses to understand and comply with the new regime.

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Future Reviews

It should be noted that the UK government has confirmed that it will continue to review retained EU law and make changes where necessary.

However, it is not yet clear what this process will entail or how long it will take, with the default position being that potentially 2,800 EU laws will remain in force into 2024.

In the meantime, it will be prudent for professionals and businesses to assess the impact of the current list of the 600 pieces of EU legislation expected to be revoked at the end of the year and to begin making any necessary adjustments.

We will be reporting on this further as the detail becomes clear.

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