Raymond reiterates call for Agriculture Bill as Government signals intent to replicate EU regulations in UK law

The Great Repeal Bill White Paper published this week confirms Government intentions to create new UK legislation giving power to existing EU regulations in UK law - and hence ruling out early changes addressing the needs of the agriculture and horticulture industries.

The Great Repeal Bill White Paper notes that below the treaties, the EU adopts directives, regulations and decisions using the powers, and following the procedures provided for, in the EU treaties.

Regulations contain detailed legal rules. Once made, regulations have the force of law in the UK and throughout the EU. Regulations only rarely require the member states to create their own legal rules in order to ensure the regulation has the desired legal effect.

The Repeal Bill paper, which followed the triggering of Article 50 and the formal start of Britian's withdrawal from the EU this week, says: "Examples of regulations include Regulation (EU) No 1143/2014 on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species and Regulation (EC) No 726/2004 laying down procedures for the authorisation and supervision of medicinal products for human and veterinary use and establishing a European Medicines Agency.

"Directives set out a legal framework that the member states have to follow, but leave it up to the member state to choose exactly how to make it part of their law. So, once an EU directive has been agreed, all member states have an obligation to make national laws that give it effect, but they have a choice as to precisely how to do so.

There are a variety of methods through which the UK has given effect to directives. The main methods are: Primary legislation. Secondary legislation made under section 2(2) of the ECA. Secondary legislation made under other primary legislation. The EU can also adopt binding decisions.

Below regulations, decisions and directives which are made using one of the EU legislative procedures, the EU also adopts measures in order to supplement and amend, or to implement, the rules set out in directives, regulations or decisions. Such measures are referred to respectively as ‘delegated’ and ‘implementing’ acts.

For example, under Article 4 of Regulation (EU) No 1143/2014 on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species, the European Commission adopts implementing acts in order to list plant species which are assessed as invasive alien species for the purposes of the Regulation.

NFU President Meurig Raymond said: "Our departure from the EU must be an opportunity, not just to ensure continuity but to deliver a regulatory framework suited to UK farmers, whether through the Great Repeal Bill process or through other legislative and regulatory measures.

"It’s clear that the intention of the Great Repeal Bill is to replicate EU law intact and unchanged into UK law as far as practicable, and to make changes only to ensure laws remain operable. We hope that this is not a missed opportunity, and that Government will, as a matter of priority, look at ways to ensure agriculture operates under an efficient and streamlined regulatory system, for instance through a future Agriculture Bill.

"The task of transferring the vast expanse of existing EU law into UK law will be one of the biggest legislative challenges this country has ever faced. And farming is probably impacted more than any other sector, with a huge number of pieces of directly applicable EU legislation and national implementing regulations governing the way our farmers carry out their day-to-day businesses. Most importantly it must not jeopardise our future trading relationship with Europe. 

"We recognise the size of this challenge and with it the need to adopt a process that is manageable within the short timeframe available. We also recognise the importance of ensuring a high degree of continuity and stability to provide businesses with certainty as they navigate Brexit, and to accommodate the need to keep standards aligned, a key issue as the Government begins to negotiate a critically important free trade deal with the EU.

"Nevertheless, Brexit also provides the opportunity to review much of the regulation governing farming. Too often, farmers have been burdened by rules and requirements that stifle their ability to farm for no discernible benefit. We recognise the value of good regulation, which can foster innovation or promote productivity while protecting our health and the environment or standardising operations. But bad regulation often achieves none of these."

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