Change of plan

Sunak reducing number of EU laws to be scrapped

Rishi Sunak

Reverse plan: Rishi Sunak may push back the EU law deadline

Rishi Sunak has sparked anger among Tory Eurosceptics amid reports that he will abandon a promised “bonfire” of 4,000 EU-era laws this year.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch told a meeting of the Brexit hardline European Research Group that the Government was likely to remove only 800 – one in five – of the retained laws.

It will be seen as an admission that meeting the deadline for sweeping away thousands of EU laws on a range of issues from health and safety to food hygiene is unrealistic.

Legal experts have expressed doubts and concern over the government’s plan, warning that it will put extreme pressure on the civil service, create uncertainty for business, and risk unintended consequences.

Under the Retained EU Law Bill, introduced by former prime minister Liz Truss, the government is committed to repealing or replacing around 4,000 pieces of law derived from the UK’s previous membership of the bloc, by a deadline set by ministers.

In the face of claims in January that the process would be delayed, Mr Sunak declared “we are going to deliver” by the end of 2023. He insisted that completing the task by the end of the year would help the government unlock the opportunities of Brexit, by making UK regulations more agile and supportive of innovation.

But media reports today indicate that scaling back on the plan will allow the legislation get through the House of Lords.

A Government spokesman said ministers continue to support to the Bill and removing “unnecessary” EU laws, but would not recommit completing the cull by the end of the year.

“We remain committed to ensuring the Retained EU Law (REUL) Bill receives royal assent and that the supremacy of EU law ends with unnecessary and burdensome EU laws removed by the end of this year,” he said in a statement.

“Once passed, the Bill will enable the country to further seize the opportunities of Brexit by ensuring regulations fit the needs of the UK, helping to grow our economy and drive innovation.”

Mr Sunak also appeared to dash the hopes of the Scotch whisky industry that he would reconsider a hike in duty.

The industry had described plans for a 10% rise in duty from August this year as a “historic blow” and First Minister Humza Yousaf raised their concerns with Mr Sunak when they met in London on Monday.

But The prime minister said in an interview that “the chancellor makes all tax decisions and that decision has been made”.

Today he will today address the Scottish Conservative Party conference in Glasgow. Scottish leader Douglas Ross will tell delegates that “the SNP’s financial troubles have blown a huge hole in the economic case for independence.” 

He will say: “The SNP wanted to hold an independence referendum in just six months’ time – when they cannot even find an auditor in the same timeframe. 

“They wanted to set up a central bank – when they cannot even submit their own accounts. 

“To borrow billions of pounds from the taxpayer to finance a new country – when they still owe tens of thousands of pounds to Peter Murrell [former SNP chief executive who loaned the party money].”

Mr Ross will question the SNP’s plan for a Scottish currency, stating: “Perhaps their plan for a new currency is an elaborate scheme to clear their own debts. 

“The SNP cannot even manage their own accounts, how can they be trusted on the finances of an independent Scotland? 

“Nobody will ever believe a nationalist on currency, pensions and balancing the books ever again.”

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