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Retained EU Law Bill: Where we are, and what happens next

3 minute read

Brendon Queiroz

Brendon Queiroz, Public Affairs Officer

15 May 2023

The Retained EU Law (REUL) Bill is an extremely important piece of legislation currently moving through Parliament.

This Bill has the potential to inflict far-reaching damage to the natural world by dropping important environmental protections, and other laws that the UK agreed to as part of the EU.

Because of the possible consequences for the protection of our seas, we've been campaigning against this Bill and raising our concerns with Government officials.

What stage is the Bill at?

A Bill is a proposal for a new law. Before a law is introduced, it will pass through Parliament in the form of a Bill.

The REUL Bill is currently in the Report stage in the House of Lords. This stage allows members of the House of Lords to examine the Bill and propose amendments. These amendments are ‘changes’ to the Bill’s powers and area of impact, which are then voted on by other members who will decide if the amendment should be accepted or not.

After the Report stage has been completed, the Bill is reprinted to include all the agreed amendments and moves to third reading, a further chance for the Lords to discuss and amend the Bill as it nears conclusion.

What's the latest?

On the 10th May 2023, the UK Government announced that it would be making a significant amendment to the REUL Bill. This amendment will replace the current ‘sunset clause’ in the Bill, which would have seen legislation disappear by default at the end of 2023, with a risk of huge unintended consequences.

Instead, the Government has issued a list of all the EU laws that are set to be revoked at the end of 2023.

This is welcome news as it means that laws will not be automatically removed. Instead, governmental departments will have more time to focus on indispensable laws. This could give government the chance to create meaningful change and legislation that would work for the benefit of society and the environment, instead of the current bonfire of legislations.

There is still cause for concern. This amendment will not act as a solution to all issues with the Bill. As it currently stands, Ministers would still have the freedom to downgrade and remove other laws as and when is felt necessary without the usual parliamentary scrutiny that would be expected.

We only have one ocean, and we all need to play our part to ensure that it is safeguarded. This is why the Marine Conservation Society and other environmental organisations will continue to resist the REUL Bill and advocate for proper environmental protection.

What happens next?

During the Third Reading stage, the House of Lords members focus on making sure that the Bill will be workable and effective in its planned purpose and minimise any loopholes that could weaken it.

There is a possibility for amendments to be made at this stage, however this is only usually done if the issue hasn’t yet been fully considered during earlier stages. The amendments are often used to clarify specific parts of the Bill and to allow the government to action promises made at earlier stages.

What happens after the third reading?

'Ping Pong'

After the Third Reading in the House of Lords, the Bill will move to the Consideration of Amendments stage. If MPs in the House of Commons make amendments to the Bill, the Lords will then consider them and either agree to the amendments or disagree and make alternative proposals, if this happens then the Bill is sent back to the House of Commons.

The Houses must agree on the exact wording and to do this, the Bill may go back and forth (‘ping-pong'), until both Houses reach an agreement.

What happens after consideration of amendments?

Once the Commons and Lords agree on the final version of the Bill, it can receive Royal Assent and become an Act of Parliament. In rare cases, when the two Houses do not reach agreement, the Bill may fall. If certain conditions are met, the Commons can use the Parliament Acts to pass the Bill without the consent of the Lords, in the following session.

MPs can have an impact by supporting and submitting environmentally positive amendments. We hope to raise concern and awareness of the damage the Bill could cause if it were to become law, especially in terms of the environmental destruction and social implications.