Just days after receiving its second reading in the Commons, a bill designed to purge the UK statute book of any hint of EU-connected laws by the end of 2023, appears to be at risk of being kicked into the long grass. The Financial Times reports a government official saying on Wednesday that the target “will not be met”.
An aide to the prime minister added that the new “Brexit delivery unit” would not be created, with one ally saying, “The time for changes in the machinery of government has passed”.
A campaign video released this summer, pledged that in his first 100 days as prime minister, Rishi Sunak would “review or repeal post-Brexit EU laws. All 2,400 of them”. Sunak’s government now seem to be backtracking, as if reality has also managed to sneak into No 10 amid all the recent comings and goings.
Brexiteer meltdown coming
He will face a “Brexiteer meltdown” if he fails to implement plans in the retained EU law (revocation and reform) bill which could see 2,417 or more EU-related regulations removed from the UK statute book by the end of next year, according to a former Conservative MEP.
David Campbell-Bannerman, who served as a Member of the European Parliament for the East of England and once stood as a UKIP candidate in the 2005 general election, was also UKIP’s party chairman. He said on Twitter that if the reports were true, it would “lead to a Brexiteer meltdown and Rishi would be in big trouble”.
The new PM has not named a dedicated “Brexit opportunities minister”, a title previously held by Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was sacked by Sunak. Downing Street has effectively downgraded the work of overseeing Brexit ‘opportunities’ to a junior minister in the business department, under Grant Shapps. It is no longer seen as a ‘standalone’ job.
Bonfire of EU rules may not be lit
Government officials also claimed the prime minister is “considering whether to press ahead” with the 2023 ‘sunset clause’ for EU regulation, which would see all EU law that still exists in the UK revoked by the end of next year unless ministers intervene.
Ministers have apparently been warned that hundreds of civil servants would be required to assess all 2,400 pieces of retained EU law and to decide whether they should be repealed or transferred into UK legislation. Rees-Mogg was warned that his business department alone would need to deploy 400 staff to review or repeal the 300 pieces of EU law for which it was responsible.
The health department estimated it would need 100 staff to carry out the same exercise, according to officials briefed on the process. Although some ministers believe the civil service has exaggerated the scale of the task, one is reported to have said: “What a waste.”