Commission sets out concerns over plans to remove EU laws

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has set out its concerns over the UK Government’s proposals to remove EU legislation, a move which could have a damaging impact on human rights in Scotland.

In a briefing sent to the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee at the Scottish Parliament the Commission highlights impacts to a range of human rights if the proposed REUL Bill (Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill) is passed by the UK Government.

Read the briefing on our website.

If enacted the REUL Bill would automatically repeal thousands of retained EU laws currently in force by the end of 2023 unless UK Ministers or the Scottish Parliament introduces legislation that retains them. This means we could lose important laws and standards that come from the EU around environmental protection, equality, workers’ rights and health.

Our briefing highlights evidence from the Public Law Project that the bill has the potential to:

  • Place vitally important rights and protections on a cliff-edge
  • Create considerable legal uncertainty which will put fundamental rights at risk and make it more difficult to enforce rights
  • Transfer vast legislative powers to ministers

What does this mean?

The report sets out the human rights considerations for Scotland and states the proposed bill presents a risk to human rights protections, including, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.

Right to a Healthy Environment

The bill could lead to whole areas of environmental law such as waste, water and air quality, nature conservation, and the regulation of chemicals being removed from UK law “automatically, simultaneously and without any safeguards or replacement” unless UK ministers take action.

Key Workers’ rights

The Employment Lawyers Association has provided a detailed list of rights that would disappear from UK Law if the UK Government did not directly act to retain them and they include:

  • the right of a worker to a 20 minute break in their shift and a break from work each day and a day off every week or 2 days off every 14 days
  • Paid holidays at the same rate of pay that a worker should get when they are working
  • The obligation on employers to make an assessment of health and safety risks to their workers or keep such a risk assessment up to date
  • The right of part-time and fixed-term workers to be treated, pro rata, similarly to permanent workers unless the employer can justify that treatment, which would have a disproportionate impact on women if such a rule was to be revoked
  • Rights to take parental leave

Right to Health and Food

Losing EU laws in relation to food and health standards would reduce the domestic legal protections that are currently in place and guarantee the full and adequate enjoyment of the Right to Health and the Right to Food. For example some EU laws require food business operators to ensure that all stages of production, processing and distribution of food under their control satisfies important hygiene requirements.

Ian Duddy, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said:

"The proposed Bill threatens to undermine the human rights protections available to people in Scotland. EU laws help to protect the rights of individuals, including workers, and to protect our environment.”

"By repealing EU legislation the UK Parliament could strip away many of these protections, especially if they are not replaced at a national level.”

Notes to editors:

1. Further information on Bill: Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament

2. See report by the Public Law Project: Second-Reading-Commons-Briefing-REUL-Bill-final.pdf (

3. The Employment Lawyers Association briefing paper: Microsoft Word - ELA_REU_Bill_BriefingPaper_22Oct22_FINAL (