Tory plans to scrap most EU laws by the end of 2023, to show that Brexit is being delivered, risk causing untold legal chaos and yet more damage to British businesses, according to the former head of the government’s legal service.
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 being described as another dangerous, ideologically driven experiment by pro-Brexit Tory rightwingers.
Last night Jonathan Jones, who headed the government legal service from 2014 to 2020, and dealt with issues relating to Brexit, warned that the retained EU law (revocation and reform) bill, which will have its second reading in the Commons on Tuesday, will create deep uncertainty for businesses and many other organisations. “I think it is absolutely ideological and symbolic rather than about real policy,” he said.
Under the bill’s provisions, about 2,400 EU laws that were kept on the UK statute book after Brexit, to ensure continuity, will be automatically deleted at the end of next year, except in cases where ministers decide that there should be exemptions.
The plan – which critics say could even mean the scrapping of rules ensuring sports events such as the Olympics can be watched free on television – 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 clue as to which laws it plans to scrap, leaving organisations in all sectors completely in the dark as to what legislation will apply to them in future.