Jacob Rees-Mogg’s plan to scrap EU laws sparks Cabinet row | Jacob Rees Mogg
A cabinet row has erupted over Jacob Rees-Mogg’s plans to scrap all remaining EU laws in less than four years, given concerns about the feasibility of combing through at least 2,000 pieces of legislation then that the public service is facing severe cuts.
The Minister for Brexit Opportunities is pushing for post-Brexit laws to expire on the June 23, 2026 deadline, marking 10 years since the EU referendum.
However, the Guardian has learned that at least two cabinet ministers have opposed the proposal, while officials have said the goal is “literally impossible” – especially as Rees-Mogg is also the iron of launches the elimination of the civil service.
In a letter to North Somerset MP George Eustice said ‘messing around’ with certain rules would mean extra cost for businesses and a waste of time for officials, while senior sources in Whitehall voiced their concerns. fears of massive deregulation from the back. gate.
The pushback came amid wrangling within government over how best to promote the “benefits” of independence from Britain. On Wednesday, Brussels is set to take legal action against the UK’s attempt to unilaterally override the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Rees-Mogg plans to publish a “Brexit freedoms” bill this summer. In a letter to cabinet colleagues seen by the Guardian, he proposed June 23, 2026 as the date when a ‘sunset clause’ should be activated, leading to the disappearance of all ‘retained European legislation’ from the Kingdom’s law book. -United. Alternative dates “significant in the Brexit calendar” are also being considered, such as January 31, 2030, which would mark a decade since Britain left the EU.
After a Whitehall review found there were still 2,194 retained EU laws across 180 unique policy areas, Rees-Mogg said ‘momentum for change’ was needed ‘to give momentum to a process regulatory reform that would remove unnecessary burdens”.
Ministers were told to assess laws affecting their departments and told some with higher levels “would have to allocate significant resources” – but no additional money would be provided.
Given existing plans to lay off 91,000 civil servants, Rees-Mogg said meeting the deadline “will require careful prioritization of policy objectives across government.”
A team must be set up within the Cabinet Office to help sort out laws that are “a high priority” to comply with, Rees-Mogg added, with a dashboard monitoring their progress and overseen by a new star chamber of Brexit opportunities, including ministers and politicians.
Many laws that ministers might want to keep could be contained in a single form of secondary legislation known as a Statutory Instrument (SI), Rees-Mogg assured them, but he added: “We cannot predict how far point the IS will be complex or simple. ”
An appendix to the letter to the cabinet also admitted that there was a risk of ‘increased litigation’ and that if the government publicly pledged not to breach international legal obligations, Rees-Mogg ‘considered’ making that happen. more explicit in the text of the bill.
In a sign of the number of laws that could be scrapped or watered down, Rees-Mogg said the campaign would be “deregulatory in ambition, but we intend to allow a reasonably broad interpretation of what is regulatory that is not limited to reduce the cost”. to businesses” and added: “Brexit is an opportunity to create our own rules”.
He added that as taxation is a “particularly complex” area of retained EU law, it would be dealt with in a “tailor-made” bill sponsored by the Treasury.
Cabinet ministers were given less than two weeks to respond, with some missing the deadline – seen as a sign of the level of discontent.
In his letter, Eustice, the environment secretary, said such an approach “could mean that time is wasted on minor issues as I have tried to focus the time of my officials on the flagship bodies of the EU law which have the greatest impact” – such as the Habitats Regulation and the Nitrates Directive.
Eustice said he was concerned that ‘the pressure of a cliff edge at sunset would mean officials would spend too much time’ reviewing lesser laws, adding: ‘Doing them all at once would be a misplaced energy.”
He also said that “messing around” with the details of some retained EU laws, such as product composition or labelling, “costs companies money and is unlikely to make much difference”.
Another cabinet member admitted that Boris Johnson’s management team were worried about it. “This is not a debate we seek to have in public,” the minister said.
Senior Whitehall sources said it would be “literally impossible” for departments to sift through hundreds of retained European statutes and come up with plans to retain, change or remove them without additional resources.
They pointed out that a significant number of laws passed by the EU had been lobbied by the UK government while Britain was still a member, or had been passed because of obligations under of international organizations.
A government insider has suggested that Rees-Mogg’s plan may not pass due to fierce opposition, adding that many hours of parliamentary time would have to be set aside to pass or change EU legislation kept at the expense of the EU. passage of other key bills before the next general election. .
Catherine Barnard, Professor of European Law at the University of Cambridge and Deputy Head of the UK Think Tank in a Changing Europe Think Tank, said: “A sunset clause is an effective but crude mechanism for putting An end to swaths of retained EU law, much of which still serves a valuable function.Replacing valid EU rules with a national variant will take up a lot of the time of officials and parliamentarians when the country has other pressing priorities.
A spokesperson for Eustice said he would not comment on the leaked letter. The Cabinet Office said the Brexit Opportunity Bill ‘would make it easier to amend or repeal outdated EU law which is not suitable for the UK, ending the ‘special status’ which EU law continues to benefit within our legal framework and saving businesses at least £1 billion in cumbersome EU red tape”.