Rishi Sunak will be forced by the House of Lords to abandon plans to flout EU laws by the end of the year.
The government has committed to removing around 4,000 pieces of EU-derived laws from the British statute book by December. Ministers have to decide who they want to keep, whom they want to eliminate and who they want to replace.
However, the scale of the task means it is increasingly seen in Whitehall as an impossible deadline, with internal estimates that thousands of officials will have to be replaced to review the legislation full-time.
A senior government source told the media that it was “inevitable” that the government would have to abandon its plans when the law reaches the lords, which is expected to take place next month. Peers have raised significant concerns about him.
“I can’t see it [the deadline] Alive,” said the source. “When it comes to Lord’s we have to make compromises. If the aim is to properly review all these regulations and not just cut and paste them into UK law then we will need more time. This is a completely arbitrary time limit. We’re going to make a concession to get it.
Three departments are expected to extend the deadline – the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Department for Transport and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – until 2026. There have been claims that Grant Shapps, the Business Secretary, is sympathetic to the delay.
However, the move is likely to anger Eurosceptic Tory MPs, who believe the legislation is vital in showing the government is delivering on the benefits of Brexit. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former business secretary, said: “There is no reason to let unelected Leftists into the House of Lords who want Brexit to continue to fail.
“Repealing EU law and replacing it with domestic law seven years after we voted to leave is not particularly ambitious and departments must be prepared to do it. For BEIS when I was there It wasn’t hard, but a little whining from life’s eternal hand-crushers.
Any delay would be particularly challenging for Sunak, who said during the leadership campaign during the summer that he would “review or repeal” EU laws in his first 100 days as prime minister.
However, there is likely to be strong opposition in the Lords, where a Liberal Democrat peer referred to the plans as the product of the “ideological right”.
Officials say the task of reviewing 4,000 EU-derived laws is onerous, with each regulation subject to 25 detailed questions and many sub-questions.
The plans are being opposed by business groups, trade unions and environmental groups. A coalition of over a dozen organisations, including the Trade Union Congress, the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said the proposed changes would create difficulties for many sectors.
In a letter to Shapps, the coalition said the plans would create further uncertainty for businesses. Roger Barker, director of policy and governance at the IOD, said: “Getting to grips with any consequential regulatory changes will impose a huge new burden on business that might do well without it.”
Concerns have been raised that the policy could be detrimental to workers’ rights and environmental protection. The letter said the proposal would overturn “decades of case law” and make “the interpretation of the law highly uncertain”. It can affect holiday pay, safe working hours, and laws governing the labeling of meat and eggs.
Ministers are understood to be keen on introducing these new provisions: chemical regulations, which ministers claim impose high compliance costs on small businesses; regulations on wine labeling, packaging, and bottle size, including minimum alcohol requirements; and regulations governing high-powered vacuum cleaners and certain planning regulations.
A BEIS spokesman said: “The program to review, repeal and reform EU legislation is ongoing and there are no plans to change the deadline for any government departments.”
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