The British government has abandoned plans to repeal or at least review thousands of EU laws by the end of this year. During the leadership contest, Rishi Sunak had promised to scrap the bulk of all EU legislation within 100 days of taking on the leadership. Jacob Rees-Moggs and Liz Truss introduced the Retained EU Law (REUL) Bill, setting the structure for the abolishment and replacement of all EU laws by the end of 2023. But now, instead of getting rid of over 4,000 laws as pledged by the PM, MPs conceded that less than 600 pieces of legislation are set to be revoked.
In The Telegraph, business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch acknowledged “risks of legal uncertainty”, emphasising that the process was “about more than a race to a deadline”. The government now appears only to seek to scrap the laws it can without creating legal turmoil.
In a statement to the House of Commons, Badenoch said:
“Over the past year, Whitehall departments have been working hard to identify retained EU law to preserve, reform or revoke.
“However, with the growing volume of REUL being identified, and the risks of legal uncertainty posed by sunsetting instruments made under EU law, it has become clear that the programme was becoming more about reducing legal risk by preserving EU laws than prioritising meaningful reform.
“That is why today I am proposing a new approach: one that will ensure ministers and officials can focus more on reforming REUL and doing that faster.”
The move has infuriated the Brexiteers, with Rees-Moggs accusing the PM of breaking his promise:
“Regrettably, the prime minister has shredded his own promise rather than EU laws.”
Instead of repealing all EU laws as promised within his first 100 days, the PM has “decided to keep nearly 90% of retained EU law”, he added.
Jenny Chapman, the Labour shadow Cabinet Office minister, called the new plan a “humiliating U-turn from a weak and divided government with no clue how to grow our economy, protect workers, support business or build a better Britain outside the EU”.
The Liberal Democrats echoed the sentiments. The party’s lead on REUL said:
“The Conservative government have dug themselves into a hole with this Retained EU Law Bill. While they may have stopped digging, they’re still in the hole.
“In their desperate attempts to avoid this legislation turning into chaos, they’re still leaving a lot of uncertainty. Both the public and businesses should be able to go on without being constantly concerned by the precariousness of so many of our laws.”
Backlash from Tory peers, businesses, environmental groups, and unions made the government change its mind
According to the Guardian, the threat of a cross-party revolt in the House of Lords sparked the government climbdown. Unions and businesses warned abolishing EU laws could jeopardise fundamental rights on discrimination protection, holiday pay, and safe working hours. Concerns over the speed of the process and the conceding much of the power to ministers and civil servants and away from Parliament, also grew.
Climate campaigners were worried that environmental protection laws would “inadvertently fall victim” if laws were abolished before the end of 2023.
The short timeframe would have made it nigh impossible for Whitehall and the governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to scrutinise all the laws properly.
Brexiteers coin government U-turn the ‘ultimate betrayal’
Rishi Sunak’s leadership campaign video is making the rounds, with Brextieers calling the government’s change of tack the ultimate betrayal and the PM’s credibility in said shreds.
When campaigning to become Prime Minister, Sunak promised to review or repeal thousands of pieces of EU law… "in his first 100 days".
Instead of shredding EU law as in his campaign video, it is in fact this promise that has now been shredded.pic.twitter.com/Fb814PTxea
— Tom Harwood (@tomhfh) May 10, 2023