The UK’s ongoing attempts to leave the EU have sparked a marked decline in the amount of legislation impacting businesses being passed into law, new research has revealed. The study, published by Thomson Reuters today (2 December), finds that the number of non-Brexit-related laws affecting businesses fell by 21% to 685 in 2018/19 (year to September 30) from 864 the previous year.
It marks the fourth successive fall in the number of business-related laws being passed, which have now more than halved since the year before the UK’s vote to leave the European Union in June 2016.
It is also the sharpest annual decline in legislation, thanks to the government’s scramble to prepare to meet two EU exit deadlines in 2019: March 29 and October 31.
Daniel Greenberg, author of the Thomson Reuters titles Craies on Legislation and Laying Down the Law, said: “Basic legislation aimed at keeping the statute book fit for purpose has been pushed down the agenda. Whether you support Brexit or not, the stark drop in business laws passed shows just how time-consuming Brexit is.”
He added: “As well as Brexit, the government’s lack of a Parliamentary majority continues to make passing business-related laws difficult. Opposition from merely a handful of Conservative MPs can stop a piece of legislation, which is likely to have dissuaded the government from introducing new laws and reforms.”
Calls to reform business rates
Examples of business-friendly legislation being affected by the Brexit logjam, according to the report, include reforms to business rates in order to help the UK’s struggling retail sector.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) are among industry bodies lobbying for reforms to business rates to help retailers that are overly reliant on bricks and mortar. Last month the Office for National Statistics reported a 0.1% decline in retail sales for October, with the proportion accounted for by online sales continuing to rise.
The CBI has also called on the government to introduce policies that would enable businesses to reduce their emissions, such as lifting a block on onshore wind-power generation.
In addition, many of the policies suggested by the 2017 government-commissioned Taylor Review of modern working practices, have yet been implemented, according to the report.
The UK general election will take place on 12 December. Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson has pledged to bring the Withdrawal Agreement Bill back before Parliament by 25 December. However, approval of the bill is dependent on his party achieving a workable majority.
The Labour Party has pledged to renegotiate the agreement with the EU before holding a referendum, while a hung parliament, where no single party commands a majoriy, is likely to lead to further uncertainty.