During its 40-year membership of the EU, the UK incorporated many thousands of pieces of EU legislation (including swathes of employment, workers and environmental protection legislation introduced under the EU’s Social Chapter) into UK law. To ensure a smooth transition when the UK left the EU, that legislation was swept across onto the UK Statute Book as ‘Retained Law’. Since one of the arguments of the Leave campaign had been to ‘take back control’ of the UK’s legislation, it was only to be expected that Retained Law would eventually be inspected for the logic of keeping it in a UK outside the EU – not least since part of the purpose of EU legislation was to ensure legal conformity across a 28-nation trading bloc.
Ideally, each piece of legislation would have been individually assessed to decide on its merit and value to the UK’s international competitivity and its compliance with international norms on climate change, environmental protection, human and employment rights etc. Laws which met those requirements would then have been redrafted to suit the UK specifically: those which did not and which the UK outside the EU did not need would have been jettisoned after due consideration.
Whilst it is widely accepted that a review and redraft of EU legislation is necessary and even logical for a UK outside the EU, concerns have been increasingly focused, not on the changes per se, but on the method that the government is planning to use to make those changes.