A new survey from the British Chambers of Commerce of 938 businesses, mainly SMEs, has identified low awareness of the Retained EU Law (REUL) Bill among businesses, as well as low levels of priority for deregulation.
When asked how much they knew about the REUL Bill and its impact on them, only 4% of businesses said they comprehensively understood. A quarter (25%) knew some details, while 41% knew no details, and 30% were not aware of the Bill.
Firms were also asked whether deregulation was a priority for them across the business areas of employment, health and safety, environment, planning and product safety regulations.
Across all areas, around half said deregulation was either a low priority, or not a priority at all.
Employment, planning, and environmental regulations had higher levels of prioritisation among respondents. 19% of businesses said deregulation of employment regulations was a top or high priority, with 19% saying the same for planning regulations, and 18% for environmental regulations.
By contrast, only 12% said deregulation was a top or high priority for product safety regulations.
When asked which regulations they would keep, amend, or remove completely, over half (58%) said they had no preference. 14% specified a regulation to remove, 14% specified a regulation to amend, and 14% specified a regulation to keep.
For those stating a regulation to remove, a range of rules were cited, from ‘employment’ regulations generally, to the proposed UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) mark, IR35, as well as other planning and health requirements.
William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the BCC, said:
“Businesses did not ask for this Bill, and as our survey highlights, they are not clamouring for a bonfire of regulations for the sake of it.
“They don’t want to see divergence from EU regulations which makes it more difficult, costly or impossible to export their goods and services.
“This Bill could also create divergence within both Great Britain and with Northern Ireland. For example, food and environmental legislation are devolved issues. Welsh and Scottish governments could easily decide to take a different path and bring forward their own legislation around things like the use of pesticides or food labelling.
“In these circumstances, the Office of the Internal Market for trade within the UK would need to be heavily involved.
“While removing barriers to SMEs’ growth would be welcomed, any proposals to amend or repeal thousands of pieces of retained EU law must be carefully examined and should not be rushed.
“That’s why the deadline on this Bill must be pushed back to the end of 2026, to give everyone more time for the process to be consulted properly. Safeguards for businesses are also required, particularly for exporters and those trading within the UK so that additional barriers to doing business are not unwittingly created.
“More widely, the UK Government must listen to businesses on all elements of the Bill and fully explain its rationale and the implications around which laws are expiring, being amended or repealed.
“Most importantly, businesses and Government need to focus on the pressing issues we are facing right now. With a difficult 12 months ahead, we can’t afford to take away any resources that businesses need to keep afloat over the coming year.”