All remaining EU laws to be scrapped or replaced by end of next year

·3-min read
EU UK Laws Regulation Kwasi Kwarteng Budget
EU UK Laws Regulation Kwasi Kwarteng Budget

Remaining EU laws are to be torn up by the end of next year as part of the Chancellor's bid to reduce unnecessary costs for British businesses and unleash growth.

Kwasi Kwarteng said the bonfire of red tape would lead to “a simpler system” that was easier for firms to navigate, as he also unveiled a bonanza of tax cuts to boost the flagging economy.

He said government departments have been ordered to review all retained EU regulations by December 2023, by which point they will be “automatically” axed unless they are amended or replaced.

According to official data, the UK has retained 2,417 pieces of EU law since leaving the bloc.

Only 182 of these laws have been amended, 196 have been appealed and 33 have been replaced.

The largest chunk – around 570 laws – govern environmental issues such as water quality, air quality, habitat protections and agricultural rules such as the use of pesticides, which the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is responsible for.

Meanwhile, another 424 are looked after by the Department for Transport, 374 by the Treasury, 318 by the Department for Business and 228 by HM Revenue & Customs.

But The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is among critics to have warned against watering down environmental protections. It said the laws had been critical in steering developments away from important wildlife habitats and protecting vulnerable species such as stone curlews and Dartford warblers.

In the Plan for Growth published on Friday, the Government insisted any changes would promote economic prosperity “whilst ensuring environmental outcomes are protected”.

Delivering his mini-Budget this morning, Mr Kwarteng said: “To achieve a simpler system, I will start by removing unnecessary costs for business.

“Firstly, we will automatically sunset EU regulations by December 2023, requiring departments to review, replace or repeal retained EU law.

“This will reduce burdens on business, improve growth, and restore the primacy of UK legislation.”

The move follows efforts by Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was appointed Business Secretary by Liz Truss, to ditch retained EU laws.

After Brexit, much of the legislation passed during the UK’s membership of the EU was simply copied over into the UK statute books in its entirety.

However, the Government has argued that many of the laws were the product of “complex compromise between 28 different EU member states” and are in many cases not best-suited to Britain.

As Brexit opportunities minister, Mr Rees-Mogg launched the government “dashboard” to track how much of this legislation had been repealed or replaced and called for a “British-style revolution” to get rid of it.

And on Thursday he proposed a “Brexit Freedoms Bill” in Parliament, which will automatically scrap retained EU laws by December 31, 2023 unless they are specifically replaced or retained.

The bill will apply to the entire UK. It will hand government departments secondary powers to amend, replace or repeal all EU laws, meaning they do not have to seek approval for each change from Parliament.

According to the Government, the regulatory bonfire could unlock £1bn in business investment.

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Now that the UK has regained its independence, we have a fantastic opportunity to do away with outdated and burdensome EU laws, and to bring forward our own regulations that are tailor-made to our country’s needs.

“The Brexit Freedoms Bill will remove needless bureaucracy that prevents businesses from investing and innovating in the UK, cementing our position as a world class place to start and grow a business.”