Announcing the government has abandoned plans to scrap all EU legislation still retained in British law by year's end, Secretary of State for Business and Trade Kemi Badenoch said the laws would instead be reformed and improved to help spur economic growth. File Photo by Neil Hall/EPA-EFE
May 11 (UPI) -- Britain has scrapped a pledge to automatically cancel some 4,000 laws that remain on the statute books from when it was a member of the European Union by the end of the year.
The decision by Secretary of State for Business and Trade Kemi Badenoch waters down the so-called "post-Brexit bonfire" of all EU legislation -- laws that Britain made its own ahead of finally departing the bloc in 2021 in order to minimize disruption -- down to 600 laws the government wants to replace by December 31.
The government will table the amendment to its Retained EU Law Bill when it goes back before Parliament next week, Badenoch said in a news release Wednesday.
"To ensure that Government can focus on delivering more reform of REUL, to a faster timetable, we are amending the REUL Bill to be clear which laws we intend to revoke at the end of this year. This will also provide certainty to business by making clear which regulations will be removed from our statute book," said Badenoch. "We have the unique opportunity to look again at these regulations and decide if they're right for our economy, if we can scrap them, or if we can reform and improve them and help spur economic growth."
The laws cover everything from the environment to labor to business with opponents of the bill, including civil servants and some MPs, warning for months that it could result in important legislation being unintentionally lost, leaving potentially critical gaps in the law of the land.
But Brexiteer politicians reacted with anger accusing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of breaking his word as scrapping or reforming all EU red tape was a key part of his campaign for the leadership of the ruling Conservative Party last summer.
"The written ministerial statement breaks the prime minister's clear promise to review or appeal all EU laws in his first hundred days," said Jacob Rees-Mogg, the author of the original REUL bill which parliament approved in January but has since become bogged down in the House of Lords.
"Instead, he has decided to keep nearly 90% of retained EU law. This is an admission of administrative failure, an inability of Whitehall [the Civil Service] to do the necessary work and an incapability of ministers to push this through their own departments."
The opposition Labor Party's shadow cabinet office minister Jenny Chapman called the move a "humiliating U-turn by a government with no idea to grow the economy, protect workers, support business or build a better Britain outside the EU."
"After wasting months of parliamentary time, the Tories have conceded that this universally unpopular bill will damage the economy, at a time when businesses and families are already struggling with the Tory cost of living crisis. They are now trying to adopt some of Labour's amendments to try and rescue this sinking ship of a bill," she said.
"We will continue to fight to ensure this legislation does not water down hard-won workers' rights, undermine business confidence, or give ministers unaccountable powers they cannot be trusted with."