Brexit: Ministers abandon deadline for scrapping held EU laws

  • By Paul Seddon
  • Politics reporter

image source, Getty Images

The government has abandoned its plan for thousands of EU-era laws to automatically expire at the end of the year.

The plan – dubbed Post-Brexit Torch – would see laws copied to the post-Brexit UK, unless they are specifically retained or replaced.

Critics of the bill have expressed concern that it could lead to the fall of important legislation by accident.

The reversal is likely to anger pro-Brexit Conservative MPs.

The cut-off point will be replaced by a list of 600 laws the government wants to replace by the end of the year, Business Minister Kimi Badinoch said.

It said in a statement that the change would be through an amendment when the retained EU bill returns to Parliament next week.

British Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg, who introduced the bill when he was in government, called the move an “acknowledgment of administrative failure”.

He added that it showed “the inability of the government to do the necessary work and the inability of the ministers to advance this through their own departments”.

The UK incorporated an estimated 4,000 EU laws into UK law to minimize business disruption when the UK formally left the EU in 2020.

Since September 2021, it has been reviewing this body of legislation to identify opportunities to give UK companies an edge over European competitors.

The retained EU bill, which began its journey through parliament during Liz Truss’ premiership, had introduced a December 31 deadline for the laws to expire, unless the government replaced them or decided to keep them.

“humiliating roundness”

But opposition parties, trade unions and campaign groups question whether the deadline is realistic, given the massive workload of reviewing the legislation.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Business Secretary Kemi Badnoch acknowledged that the deadline had created “legal uncertainty” for businesses.

She added that the “growing volume” of EU laws identified during the ongoing review of laws by civil servants meant the process was beginning to prioritize reducing legal risks over “meaningful reform”.

Labor called the move a “humiliating turn” and accused ministers of trying to “save this sinking ship because of a bill”.

Labour’s shadow office minister, Jenny Chapman, said: “After wasting months of parliamentary time, the Tories have conceded that the universally unpopular bill will damage the economy.”

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