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.

  • You cannot simplify a complex problem without creating a higher risk that things will go wrong ... in any discipline. It is the constant profit-motivated pressure people find themselves under that allows them to make poor safety decisions in the name of expediency of the moment over compliance. Just look at the evidence collected in by the Grenfell Fire Inquiry that reports too many safety decisions were taken for what seemed the right reasons at the time but now cannot be justified with the benefit of hindsight. If the threat of prosecution by an enforcing authority is not enough to motivate employers to ensure their employees and their contractors work safely (in every meaning of the word), then the recent subtle change in the way current legislation is making it far easier for people who have suffered harm or financial loss to seek redress should. Although I agree with the common thread that has been expressed by many people that it is unclear what REUL is intended to achieve, it must not be allowed to throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

  • An article late last week in the Financial Times points to a potential scrapping of the 31 December 2023 sunset clause for up to 4,000 EU laws: ‘UK Government to U-turn on plan to scrap or revise all EU law’ -https://on.ft.com/3HjOY4d.  It suggests the Government is starting to recognise the damage and chaos that could result for engineering services, product standards, chemicals, the environment, health and safety, and many other sectors if laws are revoked at an arbitrary date without allowing time for expert scrutiny.  What are your thoughts on this mooted change?

  • mmmm still coming up against a paywall for the Financial Times website I'm afraid.  However the Guardian are covering the story too: 


  • I think, if we cannot manage that expert review  of a few thousand laws that are the retained EU law  within the 5 years since the 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Act in effect created the concept, we are probably never going to - it suggests the appetite  to be independent is simply not there.

    Realise this although 4000 documents to review sounds a lot, and it is for one person, in terms of parliamentary output it is not so much. Consider  that there have been over 300 completely new statutory instruments generated, and many more started at draft in 2023 already (that figure of was as of end of April), and at least on paper we are all supposed to be keeping up with these - or at least ignorance is no defence if we are found to break one.


  • The 4000 laws in question are highly detailed and complex in nature, and cover more ground than the 300 Statutory Instruments.  It’s concerning that the laws would be reviewed without the expert scrutiny of industry and academia.  It’s also worrying that the review process would need to be completed by an arbitrary deadline of 31 December 2023, after which the laws would be sunset – even if their merits hadn’t been evaluated.  This would be very damaging for engineering and technology sectors, and for many other areas as well.  It risks putting industry at odds with standards in force in Europe or elsewhere.  At best this implies duplication of effort and cost; at worst it risks damaging the competitiveness of UK industry, the rights and safety of individuals, and the economy of UK PLC as a whole.

  • Perhaps, but even if so, why have the supposedly concerned  technical bodies only woken up to Brexit now, and not started that review earlier, say in 2019 or 2020? I think really it shows no one can be bothered - and anyway  how many were initially introduced without such scrutiny? Most I'll wager.

    If you do not impose deadlines stuff drifts for ever, avoiding that is the whole point of sunset clauses - personally I think more legislation both national and EU wide should have them.


  • All bills undergo extensive scrutiny in both the Commons and the Lords.  That is deliberately so to ensure robust legislation.  The Regulatory Policy Committee is a Government body whose role is to assess the quality of evidence and analysis that informs Government regulatory proposals.  Their own report into REUL (ref: RPC-CO-5223(1) ) on 18/11/22 rates the Bill as 'not fit for purpose' (sic).  Please review it for yourself. Parliament's role is to make and review legislation as the need arises.  It is not helpful for engineering, for society at large and for the UK economy for sound legislation simply to be removed at an arbitrary date, without expert review and replaced with ... nothing.  That's a recipe for industrial confusion and chaos that benefits no-one.

  • Oh I would agree, but much of this is about technical matters, for technical people, and too important to be left to politicians.  However, not all legislation is technically sound, nor is the extensive review at implementation always by folk who know what they are looking at. 

    There are two problems, and they are distinct.

    One relates to how much standardization is desirable or an un-necessary straight jacket on innovative engineering. This relates to appetite for risk versus possible reward. (You can after all make open frame nuclear power plants, but you cannot go near them once running and probably should not make them, but they are very light and very convenient. Similarly we probably need food standards and agreed shoe sizes. We may not need to force all cars to be the same colour. )

    The second relates to actually making Brexit work properly, and deciding how much we want to change things . Much as  those of us who make stuff that is sold to the US check the kit meets meet their Milstd instead of Defstan, or nema code for domestic stuff, one can make things for the EU market or not, that meets those standards or not, without the rules applying here - it is not just folk like the Chinese who manage this feat just fine and have done so for years !


  • Yes but...this doesn't affect exporting to the EU (which is still covered by EU legislation whatever we do)? This is about living and working in the UK, and whether we believe that by December it will be possible to review 3,745 pieces of legislation covering everything from food standards to fertilisers to sickness benefits to architects to airport slot regulations to radio frequency band allocations to the requirements to wear seat belts to etc etc etc

    It really is worth having a look down the list, it's extraordinary https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1132834/REUL_Data.csv/preview