What are the implications of the Retained EU Law (REUL) on the engineering & technology sector?

At the IET we are looking to comment on the Retained EU Law (REUL), which is having its 2nd reading in the House of Lords on 6 February, having already progressed through the House of Commons.  The essence of the Bill is that EU law that has been adopted in the UK will automatically expire on 31 December 2023 unless specifically retained by the UK.  REUL also gives more extensive power to Ministers to decide what laws to retain without the usual parliamentary scrutiny.

I’d like to get your thoughts on the potential impact of REUL in your own sector, with specific evidence where possible.  My questions are:

  1. Does the prospect of losing EU law have direct / indirect implications for your engineering / technology sector?
  2. If so, in which particular areas, to what extent and who will it impact?
  3. Would you welcome the deregulation of engineering and technology safety practices?
  4. What are your suggestions on the best way forward with the legislation?

 Thank you for your responses.

  • The big problem is knowing in  advance what exactly will be retained, not this bill itself. In principle, once this bill is past without a lot of marking of things for retention,  we could lose much legislation passed since the 1970s, including asbestos legislation, working hours legislation, controls requiring unleaded solder and compulsory seatbelts.   That may or may not be th intention, but I suspect that will not happen, rather most of the significant stuff will be retained with minimal changes. But it is very likely there will be odd holes to fix later. There is a political will to have a 'bonfire of red tape' which seems jolly attractive, but may be less spectacular than the hype.
    There is no question that the regulations that govern us have become increasingly labyrinthine in recent years, and there is scope for rationalizing. The problem is that quite a bit of that is not the EU anyway, but our own legal process. Its not the EU requiring for example restaurant owners to create risk assessments and method statement for staff using a tin-opener, though we all pay the price for it.

    As the UK ceases to be a fossil fuel exporter we will need to move to more of a goods economy than a services one to compensate, we will have to adapt a lot of this anyway. It may not be wise to do it all at once.
    More locally I do not care too much what changes, we can adapt, but what is needed is time to preview exactly  what is changing before it does.

  • I had a look at the effect on us in the rail sector when this was first announced, and so far cannot find any impact at all. Every "EU" regulation I can find that affects us has been adopted into UK law anyway, so would not be affected. (A huge amount of it was based on UK practice anyway!)

    I can't imagine much public appetite for deregulating safety in our industry. 

    Best way forward with legislation (again thinking of the rail industry): as far as possible keep it compatible with EU legislation. Otherwise suppliers have to comply with two different sets of regulation, which is extremely expensive and adds little real value.

  • Thanks for the very useful comments so far.  Please keep them coming.  I've had a request from BEIS to forward the responses that I receive, which I'm going to do. In particular, I think it'll be very useful for them to get a sense of where there are industry concerns.   

  • Here is the link to the government dashboard of the 1000,s of laws that will possibly disappear 
    I must admit I cannot work out which HMGovt is proposing to retain and which they propose to drop

    My personal input is that this whole process is an expensive waste of time - we need to stick as close a s possible to EU regulations as they are our biggest trading partner.  Abandoning this bill would therefore be the best course of action

  • From my own point of view, construction design / manufacturing the biggest potential impact I think would be CDM. It isn’t easy to interpret what is being looked at and what the status means, lack of real clarity is indeed an issue.

    Of those colleagues I discuss with in construction regards CDM I see two sides. Those that believe the BSA (Building Safety Act) deliberately shares terminology with CDM but (I’m told) doesn’t directly cross reference it, thus setting up for the removal of CDM. After which we would revert to the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, with more critical issues covered by the BSA and subsequent related legislation. Generally this is aligned with an opinion that CDM is red tape and isn’t needed beyond what was already implied in the HASAWA 1974,
    The other viewpoint I see is that BSA is directly dependent on CDM, and CDM underpins modern safety in construction so CDM couldn’t possibly be withdrawn.

    While I believe we need CDM , and that is isn’t as onerous as many many people make it, I think it would be naïve to assume it couldn’t be withdrawn, and my brief detailed read throughs of the BSA don’t to me inextricably tie it to CDM though I don’t claim to be an expert on legislation.

    This is of course just one law, and perhaps exemplifies the problem with the REUL, many laws are complex and have strong differing opinions behind them.

    My cynical side tells me that to be able to laude the success of Brexit politicians will find reasons to say they have removed red tape (whether true or not) and small tweaks at least to high profile EU derived laws are probably a strong likelihood. The politicians need the REUL even if it is kicked down the line a bit.

    That being said, would it perhaps be worth looking at some high profile EU laws to flag how red tape or barriers could be removed without affecting safety, ie that these political tweaks are directed making the assumption some will be changed.

  • My thought is simplification. We do not want any regulations that are duplicated of existing legislation or H&S regulations.

    Simplify; or face expensive lawyers arguing in the high court which act or regulation is correct.

    Further confusion and delays are caused to essential projects because governments order a hugely costly report.

    We are engineers and need to follow quick, clear guidelines to design or maintain equipment without legal worries.

    Recommendations are preferred to regulations and passing laws should be the very last resort.

    Think about the low voltage directive which as far as electricity is concerned sums up what is required for H&S.

  • Hi Dylan,

    I would just add that as I understand it CDM won't be affected as it is UK law. This bill is only intended to affect EU regulations which have not been individually adopted into UK law.

    Thanks, Andy 

  • I'm not so sure. There are probably many environmental elements to the train industry that will effect Engineering policies & regulations. 
    Then there is the blue passport ministers who will change things just to separate the GB from the EU, maybe reintroduce inches or perhaps a rod!
    but lets face it they haven't sorted the UKCA mark out yet or should that be the GBCA mark as NI will have its own Slight smile.

  • Hi Andy, I have had this pointed out to me, and I dont claim to be an expert on legislation, however CDM is listed on the REUL dashboard, showing as "unchanged" though recently changed from "No" to "Yes" under "New or amended Entry", that lack of clarity again.

  • Hi Andy, my layman question is that even if CDM per se isn't affected, could construction working practices be impacted due to changes that may take place in other legislation (eg working at height, asbestos etc)?  There seems to be a concerning lack of clarity due to the speed with which the legislation is going through its stages, and a lack of robust consultation with industry over which statutes we need to keep and which could be adapted over time.  I fear that setting an arbitrary deadline, and removing legislation unless explicitly agreed, is a recipe for loopholes and tragedies.