We reported last week on the UK government’s decision to reduce the scope of its proposed Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. As originally drafted had that bill become law then all direct EU legislation currently retained as UK law would have automatically lapsed at the end of this year unless specifically retained or amended by a minister or devolved authority before then. However, last week the government announced plans to reduce the scope of this bill to a list of circa 600 specific pieces of direct EU legislation as opposed to all direct EU legislation, whether or not yet specifically identified.
In further developments since then, the House of Lords voted last night to approve a proposed amendment to the bill which would require any direct EU legislation proposed to be scrapped to first be reviewed by a parliamentary committee. If that committee felt any such scrapping would represent “significant change” then it would have the power to trigger a debate and vote to approve the change in the House of Commons.
A further amendment also approved last night would grant the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the final decision as to whether to keep any direct EU legislation which is proposed for scrapping under the bill.
These amendments are unsurprising because, as covered in our original post, there has been criticism of the bill because of the powers it would grant ministers to repeal or amend existing laws using secondary legislation powers which are subject to less parliamentary scrutiny than primary legislation.
Whilst it would certainly be interesting to see the extent to which such a committee would assess any proposed scrapping to represent significant change (as opposed to simply the removal of already obsolete legislation) and the extent to which divergent positions in the devolved administrations might develop it is not guaranteed that either of these amendments will become law as ultimately the final form of the bill only requires approval by the House of Commons before becoming law but not the House of Lords.
In related news, the UK Intellectual Property Office has now updated its previously published list of the retained EU IP law identified by it to highlight those IP laws which are now within the reduced scope of the bill (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/intellectual-property-and-retained-european-union-law-the-facts/retained-eu-law-for-intellectual-property). This has validated the initial assessment outlined in our original post that the retained EU IP law at risk of being scrapped under the amended bill is largely limited to an administrative exercise to officially remove from the statute books laws which have already become obsolete as a result of the UK withdrawing from the EU wide community design scheme in January 2021 rather than representing any risk of a material or significant change to the current UK IP rights regime.