Tory plans to abolish most EU laws by the end of 2023, to show that Brexit is underway, risks untold legal chaos and even more damage to British businesses, according to the former head of the government’s legal department.
With the country still reeling from the effects of Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous mini-budget, ministers are facing mounting opposition from business groups, environmentalists, legal experts, unions and opposition parties to what is described as another dangerous and ideologically driven experiment by right-wing pro-Brexit Tories.
Last night Jonathan Jones, who led the Government’s Legal Service from 2014 to 2020 and handled Brexit issues, warned that the withheld EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, which will pass second reading in the Commons on Tuesday, will create deep uncertainty for businesses and many other organisations. “I think it’s absolutely ideological and symbolic rather than real politics,” he said.
Under the bill’s provisions, around 2,400 EU laws that have been retained in the post-Brexit post-Brexit compendium of UK laws, to ensure continuity, will be automatically deleted at the end of next year, except in where ministers decide there should be exemptions.
The plan – which critics say could even mean scrapping rules ensuring sporting events such as the Olympics can be watched on TV for free – has outraged unions, who fear the disappearance of laws protecting workers’ rights , and environmentalists, who believe well-established rules protecting wildlife habitats will be lost.
Jones says the government has given no idea what laws it plans to scrap, leaving organizations across all sectors completely in the dark about what legislation will apply to them in the future.
Jones told the Observer“As far as I know, there is no indication of which areas the government plans to keep and which it is getting rid of. There is therefore no certainty as to which laws we will have and which ones will replace them.
Business organizations say they need to know what regulations – such as standards for manufactured goods – they need to comply with years in advance.
“It’s a very, very bad way to change and legislate,” Jones said. “It has nothing to do with Brexit. We are gone. It creates great uncertainty in a very tight and completely self-imposed timeframe. There is nothing inherent in Brexit that says we have to change the law within a certain time after our departure. It was led by the usual suspect wing of the Conservative Party.
Lucy Monks, head of international affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said business groups had made their concerns clear. She said: “Amid widespread economic instability and runaway inflation, changes to the regulatory environment for small businesses need to be weighed carefully so as not to add further burden to already very difficult business conditions.
“A year is simply not long enough for small businesses to determine how their operations will need to change in response to a fundamental change in the regulatory environment, such as that proposed by the Revocation and Reform Bill. ‘EU.’
Labour, who have lately been reluctant to take a stand on EU-related issues for fear of being branded anti-Brexit, will oppose the bill in the House of Commons.
Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: ‘The last thing businesses and workers need is more instability and uncertainty. Not content with wrecking our economy, the Conservatives now want to destroy the rules businesses rely on to trade and the rights workers rely on to work.
Stella Creasy, Labor MP for Walthamstow and chair of the Labor Movement for Europe, said that in times of economic distress the bill could hardly be more destructive.
She said: ‘It abolishes thousands of laws overnight, from those covering the protection of people’s pensions, rights to compensation for your lost luggage or delayed travel, to those tackling the insider trading, maternity rights, and vital protections for our environment and water quality. with no clarity as to what – if anything – will replace them.
“In light of the pandemonium in Parliament, the only sensible thing to do is to scrap this before it causes more headaches for businesses and consumers, and start tackling the problems Brexit has caused again. caused in the protection of EU law. ”
The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 created the concept of retained European law, meaning that legislation from the bloc continued to be in force in the UK until such time as parliament chose to modify it. At the same time, it was recognized that some retained EU laws would need to be adapted, so as to work once the UK leaves the EU.
A government spokesman said: “The government is committed to reaping the full benefits of Brexit, which is why we are moving forward with our Retained EU Legislation Bill, which will end the special legal status of all European laws retained by 2023.
“This will allow us to quickly develop new laws and regulations that best meet the country’s needs, cutting unnecessary bureaucracy to drive growth and cementing the UK’s position as a world-class place to start and grow a business. company.”
At risk: eight European laws retained that could go
Controls that prevent the use of carcinogenic materials in cosmetics.
Rules ensuring that major sporting events such as the Olympics are free to watch on TV.
Protection for part-time workers so that they do not receive
less favorable treatment than full-time workers.
Minimum standards ensuring that aircraft can fly safely.
Compensation of travelers in the event of delay and loss of luggage.
Minimum requirements for maternity benefit.
Protection of staff pensions in the event of company bankruptcy.