Government scales back plans to review and repeal EU legislation

Thu 11 May 2023
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

Parliament overlayed with EU and UK flags

The government has scaled back its plans to repeal or replace over 4,000 retained EU laws before the end of the year, prompting an angry reaction from backbench Conservative MPs.

Instead of reviewing and repealing all EU legislation by the end of 2023, the government will now detail 600 laws to be repealed by December, allowing the remaining 3,000 to stand for the time being.

The Retained EU Law Bill, otherwise known as the ‘Brexit Bonfire bill’, has been making its way through Parliament but had been paused before the local elections, as reported previously by the IOE&IT Daily Update.

Business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch said that the move aims to reduce the administrative burden on businesses and boost UK economic competitiveness.

Grace Thompson, public affairs lead at the Institute of Export & International Trade, said:

“Yesterday’s not unexpected announcement will be reassuring for many businesses who were concerned about the state of play with this bill. The government has tabled an amendment which lays out the list of EU laws that the government do intend to revoke by the end of 2023, which means that businesses now have certainty on this and will be able to plan accordingly.

“More broadly, this decision reflects a certain level of pragmatism in accepting that either repealing or replacing all EU laws before the end of the year would not only have been too mammoth a task but also have compromised the Secretary of State’s desire for ‘meaningful reform.”

‘Taking back control’

According to the FT, prime minister Rishi Sunak promised to review or repeal all retained EU legislation within his first 100 days in office during his leadership campaign.

The Times reports that sources within the government put the delay down to officials not having enough time to properly review all affected legislation.

Business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch said:

“We are taking back control of our laws after Brexit, reducing and improving regulation and giving businesses the freedom to do what they do best – sell innovative products, create jobs and grow the economy.”

Badenoch said that 1,000 pieces of EU legislation had already been repealed, with the Financial Services and Markets Bill and Procurement Bill revoking another 500.

Reduced administration

The government’s decision to scale back the bill has been welcomed by business groups.

Tina McKenzie, policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses said that it was “pleased to see a change of approach”, highlighting the “reduction in administrative requirements that divert time from running a business.”

The Trades Union Congress warned that proposed changes to holiday pay and overtime could hurt workers’ rights, according to the Guardian.

Conservative reaction

However, Eurosceptic Conservative MPs have reacted negatively.

Former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg accused Sunak of having “abandoned his promise”, according to the Evening Standard.

The Telegraph reports that over 20 Conservative Brexiters met with Simon Hart, the chief whip, to express their concerns.

One Brexit-backing MP called on Sunak to “reconsider” the decision, with another suggesting this might hurt his majority in the House of Commons.

In an article in the Telegraph, Badenoch said that the move should be more than “race to a deadline” and suggested that the process could continue next year.