UK Abandons Post-brexit Aim to Repeal Hundreds of EU Legislation by Year’s End

The British bonfire of EU rules is now just a pile of ashes.

On Wednesday, the U.K. government gave up on a plan to get rid of all leftover EU laws, about 4,000 in total, from British law books by the end of this year. This was a goal set after Brexit that critics said was too quick and impossible to reach.

In a written statement, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch said that the government would instead make a list of about 600 specific rules that would be repealed. Badenoch admitted that there were “risks of legal uncertainty” if all EU rules were thrown out by the end of the year.

Jenny Chapman, a lawmaker from the opposition Labour Party, called the statement “a humiliating U-turn from a weak and divided government.”

When Britain left the EU in 2020 after decades of being a member, thousands of pieces of EU law were copied and pasted into U.K. law to keep people and companies moving forward.

The government’s Retained EU Law Bill would have taken them all away at the end of the year if they weren’t updated or kept. People who backed Brexit said that it would cut down on red tape and make it easier for businesses.

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Critics said that quickly going over a lot of laws would lead to rules being changed without enough government oversight. People who didn’t like the EU’s way of doing things were also afraid that the government would weaken worker rights and environmental standards in its rush to get rid of them.

During her bad seven-week run as prime minister last year, Liz Truss put forward the plan. Sunak, who took over for her, chose to keep it. During an earlier failed run for leadership against Truss, Sunak promised to get rid of all EU laws within his first 100 days in office. He even made a campaign video in which he fed stacks of paper with the words “EU laws” on them into a shredder.

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The bill was passed by the House of Commons, where the Conservative Party, which is in power, has a majority. However, the upper house of Parliament, the House of Lords, was against it.

When the news came out on Wednesday, business groups were relieved. Jane Gratton of the British Chambers of Commerce said that U.K. business leaders were “worried about the headlong rush toward the sudden removal of vast swaths of legislation overnight,” which could make it harder to compete abroad.

“It’s good that the government has listened, and I’m glad that the bill won’t use a blanket sunset clause in this way, which could have unintended but bad results,” she said.

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