Sunak’s bonfire of EU laws could face six-month delay


Government ministers are said to be considering delaying plans to scrap EU laws by up to six months. The Retained EU Law Bill was first introduced by Jacob Rees-Mogg in September of last year. At the time the leading Brexiter was serving as the business secretary.

Along with other Eurosceptic Tory MPs, he argued that stripping out EU regulations was a key to securing a Brexit bonanza for the UK’s economy.

Under the terms of the bill, any EU-derived regulation in Britain that is not converted into UK law or revoked by the end of 2023 will automatically drop off the statute book.

Rishi Sunak pledged to keep the bill and scrap, amend or retain all EU-derived laws on Britain’s statute books by December 31, 2023.

However, officials are struggling to review the 4,000 laws that are potentially involved, The Times‘s political editor writes.

Experts have expressed grave concerns that mistakes with possible far-reaching consequences for the economy could be made in any attempt to rush through the bill in order to meet the end of the year deadline.

Roger Barker, director of policy and governance at the Institute of Directors, told the Financial Times: “Reviewing thousands of pieces of EU-derived legislation by the end of 2023 risks creating a bureaucratic nightmare for both business and the civil service.

“This is the last thing that business needs in such a fragile economic environment.”

Lady Angela Smith, the leader of the Labour party in the House of Lords, warned ministers in March that it was “illogical, impractical and reckless to allow potentially important pieces of law to fall off the statute book by default because a department lacks the capacity to identify and rewrite them in the next 10 months”.

In a sign that Mr Sunak has listened to his critics, No 10 is reported to be considering a six-month extension to the time frame of implementing the bill, according to The Times.

The extension would still allow the Prime `minister to fulfil his pledge on EU regulations by the time of the next General Election, which must take place before January 2025.

Kemi Badenoch, the current business and trade secretary, will be responsible for selling the idea of a delay to Tory backbenchers.

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It is believed the government will commit to retaining some high-profile EU-derived laws, such as the working-time directive and environmental legislation.

These laws could still be amended by ministers at some stage in the future.

Mr Sunak’s plans to scrap EU laws does not appear to enjoy widespread support among business leaders in the UK.

A recent survey carried out on behalf of an alliance of environmental and public safety organisations, found a majority believed Downing Street’s plans to enact a bonfire of EU regulations will cause more uncertainty and not increase economic growth.

The polling was commissioned by Unchecked UK, a charity focused on safety and protection.

It was also supported by the Women’s Institute, the Wildlife Trusts, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

68 per cent of businesses said the bill would cause more uncertainty, while 64 per cent of respondents said that these plans would not boost economic growth in the UK.

The polling also found that 63 per cent of respondents that expressed a view thought that these plans would restrict access to trade markets for UK businesses.

Up to a quarter of businesses declined to answer these questions definitively.

Business leaders said their primary concerns were Brexit, inflation, energy costs and labour shortages.

A mere 18 percent of respondents said excessive regulation was a major concern.