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by Louise Wilson
15 February 2023
MSPs warn of ‘legal cliff edge’ from EU law bill

MSPs warn of ‘legal cliff edge’ from EU law bill

The UK Government’s Retained EU Law Bill will create a “legal cliff edge”, a Scottish Parliament committee has warned.

The bill, which will repeal several pieces of EU law by the end of 2023, could create significant risks in food standards, animal health and environmental protections, MSPs have concluded.

The inquiry was conducted by the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee.

MSPs on that committee also raised concerns about the capacity within both the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to scrutinise EU law that will be retained.

It called on the UK Government to work with the Scottish Government to address some of the shortfalls.

Committee convener Clare Adamson said: “The evidence we heard was stark and there is deep concern over the legislative ‘cliff edge’ and the threat this bill poses in key areas. But the committee’s concerns on this bill go beyond this and are deep and wide-ranging.

“We are once again in a position of highlighting the strain that intergovernmental processes face post-Brexit. And to have to do so again is deeply frustrating.

“We were also told of ‘blank cheque powers’ being handed to ministers in terms of their discretion to amend or replace [retained EU law]. Far-reaching policy changes should be made via a bill, and not through secondary legislation.”

The conclusions of the report were not unanimous, with the Tory members of the committee – Donald Cameron and Maurice Golden – dissenting.

The bill has already passed in the House of Commons and is currently under consideration by the Lords, where is it facing significant amendment.

It seeks to repeal or replace thousands of pieces of EU law that were retained post-Brexit to smooth the transition.

UK business minister Nusrat Ghani said the bill was vital to ensure those laws do not become an “ageing relic dragging down the UK”.

But opponents have expressed concern that regulations could stop being law “by accident”.

The Scottish Government has recommended Holyrood does not consent to the bill. Constitution secretary Angus Robertson said it would put “high standards” at risk and would also undermine devolution.

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