UK government finds extra 1,400 laws to scrap under Rees-Mogg’s Brexit bill

Discovery follows admission that previous list of 2,400 pieces of EU legislation was ‘not comprehensive’

Government researchers have found another 1,400 laws that will be wiped off the statute books next year by Brexit legislation tabled by Jacob Rees-Mogg in September, according to reports.

They are in addition to 2,400 laws ranging from environmental protections to workers’ rights and passenger compensation rules already identified by the former Brexit opportunities and business secretary.

The discovery adds further detail to an admission that a government dashboard listing the laws was “not comprehensive”.

It came in response to a series of questions from the Labour MP Stella Creasy, who has asked about the civil service’s capacity to advise ministers on what laws should be retained, amended or ditched in the retained EU law (revocation and reform) bill.

She was told that the equivalent of only three full-time officials were working on the estimated 137 laws in the Department of Health and Social Care, while 77 full-time staff at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are working on the bill.

According to the Financial Times, it has emerged that 1,400 pieces of EU law, much of it long-forgotten, had been found by researchers at the National Archives.

A spokesperson for BEIS said: “The process of identifying and recording EU-derived legislation is an ongoing process and an essential exercise in accelerating regulatory reform and reclaiming the UK statute book. The government’s record of legislation will be refined over time, as more retained EU legislation is repealed, replaced, or identified.”

The bill is at committee stage in parliament and has been championed by Rees-Mogg and his allies as an opportunity to expunge any vestiges of EU law on domestic statute books.

Sir Stephen Laws, the first parliamentary counsel from 2006-12 and a fellow at the rightwing Policy Exchange thinktank, told the committee the bill was a positive move as EU law was “imprecise” and was used to harmonise laws across the bloc. It would also remove the supremacy of EU law.

Legal experts, including the former Brexit department lawyer Eleonor Duhs, have criticised the bill as “undemocratic” for the unprecedented powers it gives ministers to decide what laws to save or discard.

They will be giving evidence on the bill to a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, as will environmental groups, the trade union Unison and Sir Jonathan Jones KC, a former head lawyer for the government. Others testifying include Martin Howe KC, a champion of Brexit.

If the proposed laws are enacted, all EU law unless otherwise amended will be wiped out on 31 December next year under a sunset clause.

The list of laws targeted by the government includes bans on animal testing for cosmetics, passenger compensation rights for those whose flights are delayed, equal pay for men and women, and pension rights for widows of same-sex marriages.

Government dashboard showing sector by sector retained EU law
Government dashboard showing sector by sector retained EU law. Photograph: Cabinet Office dashboard Oct 2022

Environment, agriculture and food safety is governed by 570 laws that flowed from EU directives, rules and decisions, with more than 400 laws governing transport and more than 200 covering work and pensions.

Under the proposed laws, the government has the power to simply switch off laws on 31 December 2023 without consultation with the public or parliament unless they have been actively saved by a minister.


Lisa O'Carroll Brexit correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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