Wednesday 29 March saw the hand delivering of the letter to ‘trigger’ Article 50 the UK’s exit from the EU. Interesting in this day and age it was a hand delivered letter. Imagine it had been an e-mail and gone into the junk folder!
Following the Article 50 trigger the Government has published its White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill – this will be the legislation that ‘takes back control’ of UK law.
What can we learn from this document?
- That 52% to 48% is a “clear instruction”.
- That the UK remains a full member of the EU and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force until exit.
- If we did not have the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ when the European Communities Act (1972) is no longer in force there would be ‘significant gaps’ in the UK’s statute book.
- Following the Great Repeal Bill secondary legislation will be used to ‘correct’ the statute book. The majority of law and regulation is the result of secondary legislation. Secondary legislation is an interesting process and how the Government handles this will be critical. As always we will be highly dependent on the skills of the civil servants to put forward good quality drafts. Equally, we need to trust in good scrutiny of that material by parliament.
- The Bill will convert directly applicable EU laws into UK laws. The intention is that at this time only corrections are made to allow the laws to work. Policy change is not an intention.
- It is estimated that there are around 7,900 statutory instruments that have been used to implement EU legislation in the UK. ESOS is just one of those statutory instruments.
- In terms of Environmental protection the Government is “committed to ensuring that we will become the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it”. I think there could be an interesting posting about this statement alone.
- The Government estimates that between 800 and 1,000 statutory instruments will be needed to ‘correct’ the law. Putting this in context the 2010-15 parliament processed an average of 1,071 statutory instruments each year. This suggests that there is around one year of parliamentary work could be required just to correct the law.
- Most corrections will need to be made before the UK leaves the EU so that there is a functioning statute book on the day we leave the EU.
- The key purpose of the Bill to end the general supremacy of EU law.
If you want to see the detail you can access the White Paper here.
So what does this mean for energy?
My reading is that the key aspect of the Bill is to ensure that the UK’s statute book works when the EU elements are removed. On this basis the work should be confined to corrections and not include policy changes. If the majority of changes are going to be made over the next two years and this will include 800 to 1,000 Statutory Instruments it may prove difficult to know exactly what is going on!
Accordingly, it makes sense to think that ESOS will still be in place for December 2019 – and the same for other EU derived energy & environmental regulation. For ESOS the big question might be given the enforcement of the first phase, how well enforced will the second phase be? But if you look at ESOS only from a compliance level it misses the benefits that a regular programme of audits and assessments can bring to an organization.
In energy as in all other sectors we are not comfortable with uncertainty, but then most of the business world is about uncertainty and it’s how we manage that that matters.
It is always a good time to take control of energy use and costs.
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