CropLifeUK Dave Bench CEO has addressed the Brexit Freedom Bill and its possible implications.

“The ‘Brexit Freedoms Bill’ is attracting a lot of attention, mainly for the wrong reasons.

More properly known as the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, if passed in its current form it will allow ministers to replace EU derived laws.  A sunset clause will repeal laws automatically unless it’s decided to extend, preserve, or replace them beforehand.

The sunset clause may be extended by secondary legislation for specific legislation, but to no later than 23 June 2026. The significance of this later date is that it is the 10-year anniversary of the Brexit referendum.  It is essentially a political device to allow politicians to claim that the last vestiges of EU control have been swept away.

Post-Brexit we would expect the Government to review how laws apply and whether improvements could be made that would better suit the UK.  But this can’t be done for all EU derived laws by the end of 2023, or even by the 10-year anniversary of the referendum, in a meaningful way that will genuinely provide a benefit to the UK.

This opinion is shared by many others and by government bodies themselves, such as FSA who have said it might have profound implications for public health and businesses. In the meantime, vast numbers of hard-pressed civil servants will have to spend much of their time superficially reviewing these laws.  All this effort will displace other activities that might genuinely provide some benefits to mitigate some of the post-Brexit doom and gloom.

The right thing to do would be to prioritise government activity on the things that would make the most difference.  For the crop protection sector, making sure that new law for precision breeding of crops emerges from the UK Parliament in a sensible form should be a key priority, though having new rules for England only and not the rest of the UK is disappointing.

The various laws that control plant protection products (PPPs) are broadly sound and provide a robust regulatory framework.  Whilst they could no doubt be further improved; this does not strike me as a priority for legislative reform.  Far better to improve delivery of the regulatory regime, where decision making has become unpredictable and slow since the Brexit referendum.  That’s an area where some simple changes would make a big difference, with the added advantage that new law is not required.

At some point, it will be an appropriate time to look at further legislative reform in our sector.  But that should be done on a sensible timetable, with meaningful consultation as part of the process.  In the meantime, the existing laws are perfectly adequate if government spent some of its effort on regulating more predictably and efficiently.”

CropLifeUK supports robust evidence based regulatory approaches that deliver high levels of protection for human health and the environment.  A UK wide approach to precision breeding that provides a clear route to market, and better, more efficient delivery of the existing PPP regime would have positive outcomes that will not be delivered by the Brexit Freedoms Bill.