Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

Written evidence submitted by the PETRA Network (REULB17)

House of Commons Public Bill Committee Inquiry on Retained EU Law Bill


1. The PETRA Network is an interdisciplinary expert community, exploring how international trade can improve human health and prevent non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. PETRA was established on 1 September 2019, funded by the UK Prevention Research Partnership. The Network is hosted by the University of Chester with Professor Paul Kingston, Director of the Health & Wellbeing Institute, as PETRA’s Principal Investigator. Eleven Co-Investigators from eight UK universities plus the University of Sydney oversee the Network , supported by an Expert Advisory Group : .

2. PETRA’s objectives are:

· Addressing non-communicable disease (NCD) prevention at scale   by linking research across law, economics, political science, public health, environment, and business.

· Establishing research and development priorities in trade and health.

· Building interdisciplinary research capacity in trade and health.

· Informing policy on the implications of trade for health by sharing perspectives, information needs, and innovations on trade and health policy across the UK .


3. There is no wealth without health but health itself is determined by factors relating to the conditions into which children are born and in which people live and work .  

4. The Retained EU (Revocation and Reform) Bill is one of the most foolhardy and myopic bills to have been laid before Parliament . I t threatens to undermine further th e living and working conditions that have become dangerously fragile as a result of the Covid pandemic [1] and the present cost of living crisis . The UK is already witnessing both a decrease in life expectancy across England [2] ,   [3] that now lags behind Europe, and widening health inequalities which are also among the worst in Europe .

5. T ear ing gaping holes in the UK’s regulatory environment will lead to further uncertainty during what has been a turbulent period for both people and the economy . B usinesses will be unsure of their obligations , workers will risk exploitation through eroded employment rights , environmental breaches will continue unchecked, and the civil service will be tied up in remedial legislative work . M ost importantly , the UK’s high food , agricultural and ani m   al welfare standards will be at severe risk of compromise in trade negotiations [4] - already being scrutinised because of transparency concerns [5] and the focus of PETRA’s commentary . [6]

6. In its present form , the Bill gives Government the powers to "make such alternative provision as the relevant national authority considers appropriate." [7] This lack of context and "blank cheque" approach fails to create policy coherence or confidence with the risk that EU laws will be treated as a "regulatory ceiling rather than a floor." [8] This is an inadequate route to protecting and improving the public’s healt h as the resulting trade deals are likely to lead to the growth of health damaging processed foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar . There is , potentially, a huge avoidable cost to the health and wellbeing of the UK population and economy that would result from any abandonment of EU health regulations and standards.

7. As an absolute m inimum , the Bill’s proposed sunset clause should be re m oved to avoid tipping the UK over an unnecessary regulatory precipice .

8. The progressive realisation of human rights places at least the expectation for the UK’s regulatory environment to develop and improve standards. The Retained EU (Revocation and Reform) Bill fails to deliver this as it currently stands .


7 Governance

7 .1 The UK Govern m ent Retained EU Law dashboard has identified over 2400 pieces of retained EU legislation in "over 300 policy areas across 21 sectors of the UK economy . " [9] E ven at present civil service levels there is likely to be insufficient capacity to provide sufficiently rigorous checks and analysis of each piece of legislation before the proposed sunset clause is enacted .

7 .2 Enabling m inisters to a mend retained EU law via statutory instrument undermines the democratic processes of Parliament . As secondary rather than pri m ary legislation , s tatutory instru m ents currently receive li mi ted Parlia m entary scrutiny with the resulting risk that insufficient attention will be given to regulatory protections that support the public’s health and wellbeing. [10] As has been pointed out , statutory instru m   ents are supposed to be used to m ake m inor a m end m ents to existing legislation [11] or to provide practical m easures to enable the law to operate. [12] They are not designed to rebuild an entire body of legislation.

7 .3 EU legislation has a built-in syste m to ensure it re m ains current through a sche m e of "fitness check ing" which is lacking in the UK. [13] Rather than enacting a sunset clause , consideration c ould be given to introducing similar checks Tools such as health i m pact assessments could be used to aid scrutiny and decision- making . This would m itigate the increasing risk of obsolescence in EU retained law whilst preventing the need for rushed and poorly thought out replacement legislation and at the sa m e ti m e m aintaining current levels of protections for the population.

8 Enviro nm ent :

8 . 1 The UK Govern m ent Retained EU Law dashboard [14]   identifies 570 current environ m ent al protection s from the EU. These protections have been used successfully by organisations such as Client Earth who achieved a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union in M arch 2021 that the UK had infringed air pollution laws . [15] Reporting in 2022, the Office for Health I m   provement and Disparities found that such infringements equate to between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths annually with the cost of air pollutants to the NHS and social care estimated at £1 . 6 billion between 2017-2025 . [16]

8.2 The Water Framework Directive provides for the ecological status of water basins by, for example, controlling the chemical status. Figures fro m the Environ m ent Agency released in M arch 2022 [17] reveal that water authorities discharged nearly 2 . 7 million hours of sewage in 2021 with consequent im pacts on the m arine environment , fisheries and hu m an health . It is reported that action against the UK is being considered for breaching the Brexit deal that committed to keeping EU levels of protection. [18]

8 .3 PETRA is just one of the networks that have already flagged the potential for the UK’s new trade deals to do further da m age to the environment . [19] Existing environmental protections need strengthening not weakening or revoking.

8 . 4 Environmental laws matter because the da m age being caused by pollution that results in cli m ate change through floods , drought and rising te m peratures will continue to i m pact the population’s health and therefore the econo m y .

9 Food

9 .1 The UK Govern m ent Retained EU Law dashboard [20] identifies 137 pieces of health and social care EU legislation . These cover a wide range of issues fro m fishery imports , genetically modified products such as rice from China , the sale of irradiated foods , hygiene requirements for food businesses , and food quality .

9.2 EU regulations also deal with food standards and distribution following nuclear incidents such as the da m   age caused to the Fukushi ma plant in Japan in 2011 . It would be folly to leave the UK exposed by removing food safety regulations with the war ongoing in Ukraine and rising nuclear tensions.

9 .3 M aintaining and improving standards in food safety, hygiene and production is an essential and fundamental part of the progressive realisation of the right to food , ensuring that people have access to decent food of good nutritional value. This must not be compromised by abandoning years of carefully developed legislation.


10.1 Closely allied to quality controls on food is the EU’s regulation on chemicals and pesticides through REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals Regulation) . REACH is a co m plex m echanis m but the implications of leaving this are wide-ranging . Apart fro m creating enormous duplication of effort in re-registering all substances in an equivalent UK database, any potential reduction in control raises risk s to hu m an ani m al and plant health.

10 .2 In its advice on the Australia-UK trade deal , t he Trade and Agriculture Co mmission notes that both countries have agreed merely to " endeavour to maintain high standards in their environmental and animal welfare laws" rather than making an outright commitment to improving them . The Co mm ission also concluded that , although i m ports of products using antimicrobials will not increase, the agreement is "likely to lead to increased imports of products that have been produced at lower cost by using pesticides in Australia that would not be permitted in the UK ." [21]

10 .3 Si m ilar concerns are being raised in advance of a UK-India trade deal since there is potentially an even greater risk to hu m an and ani m al health fro m a country with far lower standards than currently exist in the UK . As Sustain notes , the UK lacks the infrastructure to test i mports for pesticide residues over and above the existing regulations . [22] PETRA strongly supports the reco mmendation for the UK to retain the right to regulate for environmental and health objectives in trade deals .

10 .4 DEFRA has already agreed a derogation in order to sanction the use of a neonicotinoid banned by the EU in 2018 to support sugar beet growers [23] against a growing body of evidence of toxicity to pollinators and resulting threat to crops . [24]

10 .5 Maintaining stringent controls of chemicals is vital to human animal and plant health not just in the UK but to provide assurance to the UK’s trading partners .

1 1 Workplace

1 1 .1 The UK’s core workplace protections currently derive from the EU . [25] These includ e the right to an annual minimum holiday entitlement and holiday pay , maternity/paternity leave, protections for part-time workers , equal pay for women and men , and limiting the working week to 48 hours through the Working Time Directive .

1 1 .2 Labour protections matter because they are fundamental to good employment which itself is a key driver of health and an important method of tackling health inequalities . " C reating fair employment and good work for all" [26] is one of five policy areas used to review progress since Michael Marmot’s 2010 report Fair society healthy lives .

1 2 Consumer standards

1 2 .1 The UK’s consumer protection s derive from the Consumer Rights Directive . [27] A m ong other protections, t he se establish the right for the public to be given the information need ed before buy ing goods or services as well as the right to cancel online purchases.

1 2 .2 Consumer protections matter because they drive product quality and protect people from harm. They also provide safeguards for individuals or population groups who may be considered vulnerable and therefore at risk of unfair practices .

N ove m ber 2022

[1] Sm ith R et al (2020) Between C ovid-19, Brexit, and new trade deals, a non-communicable disease storm is brewing B M J Opinion (23 Nove m ber)

[2] Segm ent tool: statistical co mm entary Nove m ber 2022 London: Office for Health I m prove m ent and Disparities

[3] Raleigh V (2022) What is happening to life expectancy in England? [Blogpost] London: Kings Fund

[4] Enhancing future trade and investment agreements to address non-communicable diseases and health inequalities in the UK: a proposed research and development manifesto; 3rd edition (2022) Chester: PETRA trade and health network

[5] Webb D Ward M . (2022) Parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals London: House of Commons Library

[6] Melvin K (2022) Trade, health and the economy: conflict or concord Perspectives in Public Health 142(5): 257-258

[7] Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill (2022) London: House of Commons

[8] Fox R (2022) Five problems with the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill London: Hansard Society

[9] Retained EU law dashboard (2022) London: Cabinet Office

[10] Retained EU Law Bill: four ways it’s flawed (2022) [Blogpost] London: Public Law Project

[11] Jordan A, Moore B (2020) Why the level playing field is at risk of "regression by default" London: UK and EU

[12] What is secondary legislation? (n.d.) London: Parliament

[13] Jordan A, Moore B (2020) Why the level playing field is at risk of "regression by default" London: UK and EU

[14] Retained EU law dashboard (2022) London: Cabinet Office

[15] Top court confirms UK has broken air pollution law London: Client Earth, 2021

[16] Air pollution: applying All Our Health (2022) London: Office for Health Improvement and Disparities

[17] Storm overflow spill data released today shows no room for complacency (2022) London: Environment Agency

[18] UK sewage dumping could be breach of Brexit pact, says EU Commission (2022) Euractiv (1 September)

[19] Vardoulakis S (2020) Impact of trade, and trade and investment agreements, on air pollution and public health Chester: PETRA: trade and health network

[20] Retained EU law dashboard (2022) London: Cabinet Office


[22] Lydgate E (2022) Toxic trade: how a trade deal with India threatens UK pesticide standards and farming London: Sustain

[23] UK Government permits use of bee-toxic insecticides (2022) Brighton: Pesticide Action Network

[24] Tosi S et al (2022) Lethal, sublethal, and combined effects of pesticides on bees: a meta-analysis and new risk assessment tools Environment 844; 156857 /pii/S0048969722039547

[25] Workers’ protections at risk as EU Law Bill moves through Parliament [web page] (2022) London: UNISON (October)

[26] M ar m ot M et al (2020) Health equity in England: the M ar m ot Review 10 years on . Executive su mm ary London : The Health Foundation

[27] Consumer contracts regulations (2021) London: Which,


Prepared 9th November 2022