UK bill to revoke EU laws could have 'negative impact on trade', Brussels warns

A member of protocol adjusts the EU and Union flag prior  at EU headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 21, 2022.
A member of protocol adjusts the EU and Union flag prior at EU headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 21, 2022. Copyright AP Photo/Olivier Matthys
By Alice Tidey
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Relations between Brussels and London have improved since the two sides struck a deal in February over the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol.


Plans by the British government to revoke or amend hundreds of European Union laws on its statute book could have a "negative impact on trade", Brussels has warned.

Speaking at the EU-UK Forum's annual conference on Monday, European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said Brussels is following the evolution of the Retained EU Law through the British parliamentary process "extremely, extremely closely."

"I understand that (a) big part of the audience who is following this conference would like to see more seamless trade, less friction, less complication but it's very difficult to achieve that if the decision is to just simply go for more divergence or if, let's say, the law which we've been building together for many, many decades and underpins some of the fundamentals of the Withdrawal Agreement and TCA [The EU-Uk Trade and Cooperation Agreement]  would be thrown into the shredders."

"We are also talking about this with our colleagues on the UK side so we will see how all this will evolve but as I said, you know, if we are in a situation where there will be more divergences, clearly there will be more obstacles and it has negative impact on trade," he added.

Hundreds of EU laws on the docket

The planned British law, named the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, would enable lawmakers to revoke or amend certain EU laws that were kept on UK statute books after the country finalised its divorce from the bloc more than three years ago in order to provide legal certainty and continuity immediately after Brexit.

The bill, tabled under a Boris Johnson-led government, initially planned for a so-called sunset clause that would see thousands of EU laws automatically expire on 31 December 2023. This was however removed under the new executive helmed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, citing the need for continued legal certainty.

Over 1,000 EU laws have been revoked or reformed and the government has published a list of 600 EU laws that could follow suit under this bill with a further 500 under two other pieces of planned legislation - the Financial Services and Markets Bill and the Procurement Bill. 

This comes months after Brussels and London finally struck a deal to resolve tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol and to facilitate the movements of goods between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland through simpler customs rules.

The Windsor Framework was then hailed as "historic" and "a new chapter" for EU-UK ties and has led to a thawing of relations between the two capitals, also boosted by the need to show a united front in support of Ukraine in the face of Russia's brutal invasion, and common challenges including a crippling energy crisis and rising inflation.

EU is a 'much-valued ally and friend'

Šefčovič stressed that any new divergence from EU law might require the bloc taking steps to ensure any import complies with its rules such as checks and additional paperwork.

"So it's definitely not something which makes it easier for the businessmen," he said.

"We understand the UK is a sovereign country, we respect the decision to leave the EU and of course the fact the UK is governed by their own laws. We are just reminding what could be the consequences and how it could impact our trade and economic relationship," he added.

Britain's Foreign Secteray, James Cleverly, did not touch on the issue of trade in his address to the conference on Monday. 

"It's a top priority for me that we foster an even closer UK-EU relationship building on the achievement of the historic Windsor Framework," he said in a pre-recorded video, describing the EU as a "much-valued ally and friend".

"I want to move forward in the same spirit of mutual confidence and ambition for our relationship and to work closely with you on other areas of mutual interest," he added.

He said collaboration on migration "is a top priority" and cited energy, science and research, and security as other key areas of interest.

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