Sunak doubles down on plans for a bonfire of EU laws

Jacob Rees-Mogg clashes with Richard Graham over Brexit

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The Prime Minister said ditching some 4,000 pieces of legislation originating in Brussels will accelerate the UK’s economic recovery and “improve people’s everyday lives”. And he vowed to get the herculean task done by the end of the year despite the efforts of Labour and Tory rebels.

A Downing Street source said last night: “Brexit gave us the opportunity to revisit the way we do things and the way we regulate things.

“We’ve already delivered Brexit boons, from freeing up financial services in order to attract investment or deregulating to bring new business to our shores.

“Now we’ve got to double down on that work. There are so many things we can do and so many areas to improve how we do things. It’s about harnessing those ideas into delivery to cut tape for businesses and reduce costs for families.”

Mr Sunak discussed the plans – which fall under the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill – with his Cabinet on Tuesday.

The Bill will return to the Commons on Wednesday, with ministers also considering proposals on possible post-Brexit regulatory changes in the creative, medical and farming sectors.

The PM told his Cabinet that the work has the “potential to drive growth and improve people’s everyday lives”.

In a readout from Cabinet, the Prime Minister said: “Developing the best regulatory environment in the UK will be crucial to accelerating our economic recovery and driving growth, innovation, and competitiveness as part of plans to build a better future across the country.

“Cabinet agreed none of this work was about watering down standards, such as our strong record on workers’ rights, maternity rights, or environmental protection, having raised domestic standards over recent years to make them some of the highest in the world.”

Brexiteers welcomed the Prime Minister’s remarks.

Former Cabinet Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “It’s good news that the PM thinks this and he is right; this gives the UK the opportunity to regulate itself in a way that supports growth. And growth is what people want.

“These EU laws have made us much poorer. It is seven years since people voted to leave the EU and now we have got to get on and start harvesting the fruits.”

Fellow Conservative MP Michael Fabricant said: “This is what Brexit was all about. Taking advantage of no longer being subject to enterprise-stifling European regulations to create a closed shop to initiative.

“Of course, we will retain health and safety laws where appropriate, but this initiative will now at last demonstrate the advantages that Brexit will bring to the British economy and people.”

The legislation is designed to make it easier for the UK Government, via Parliament, to amend, repeal and replace EU law retained after Brexit.

It also allows nearly all remaining retained EU law to be either repealed or absorbed into UK domestic law by December 31 2023.

However, the scale of the task means that it is increasingly seen in Whitehall as an impossible deadline, with internal estimates that thousands of officials will have to be diverted to review legislation on a full-time basis.

Three departments are expected to extend the deadline – the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Transport and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Some MPs are concerned that the laws will automatically be scrapped at the end of the year without any discussion or scrutiny in parliament.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis and Sir Robert Buckland, a former justice secretary, have joined a cross-party bid to force the government to spell out exactly which laws it plans to scrap, amend or keep.

They have signed a cross-party amendment to the Retained EU Law Bill. Hilary Benn, a senior Labour MP, has also signed it, together with Stella Creasy, who is leading on the amendment.

The Cabinet readout added: “The Prime Minister concluded by saying this work would be a collective effort across Cabinet which had the potential to drive growth and improve people’s everyday lives.”

Mr Sunak’s official spokesman told reporters that ministers “clearly have a grip on what needs to be done”, adding that what the “public wants to see is action taken quickly”.

Asked for the timeline for updates on the initiative, he said: “I think some of this work can be done and introduced quite quickly. Some will take more time to develop, but it will be departments that will provide updates.”

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