British PM plans for removal of EU laws two years on from Brexit

Johnson claims Bill will lighten regulation on business and restore UK sovereign status

Boris Johnson will mark the second anniversary of Brexit on Monday by promising to make it easier to get rid of European Union laws that remain on the statute books. A new "Brexit Freedoms Bill" will end the special status of EU laws made before January 1st, 2020, which continue to have precedence over domestic laws.

Mr Johnson said the changes would lighten the burden of regulation on British businesses and ensure that the regulatory framework suited Britain’s interests.

“Getting Brexit done two years ago today was a truly historic moment and the start of an exciting new chapter for our country. We have made huge strides since then to capitalise on our newfound freedoms and restore the UK’s status as a sovereign, independent country that can determine its own future,” he said.

“The plans we have set out today will further unleash the benefits of Brexit and ensure that businesses can spend more of their money investing, innovating and creating jobs.”


‘Legacy’ rules

Under current rules, changing what is called retained EU law requires primary legislation, so it would take years to repeal or amend the rules adopted when Britain was in the EU that remained on the statute book after Brexit. Attorney general Suella Braverman said changing the system was key to Britain "taking charge of our regained sovereignty" after the 2016 referendum and Mr Johnson's election victory three years later.

“Setting up a mechanism to deal with these legacy EU rules is essential. It underpins our ability to grasp important opportunities provided by Brexit. It means we can move away from outdated EU laws that were the result of unsatisfactory compromises within the EU, some of which the UK voted and lobbied against – but was required to adopt without question,” she said.

“These rules often had limited meaningful parliamentary scrutiny, and no democratic legitimacy in the UK at all. It is vital that we take the steps necessary, in this parliament, to remove unnecessary rules altogether and, where regulation is needed, ensure that it meets the UK’s objectives.”

Energy bills

Some Conservative backbenchers have become impatient with the government's failure to exploit Brexit's opportunity to create a new regulatory framework outside the EU. Former Brexit minister David Frost promised a review of retained EU law last September but it has yet to report and the government continues to promise that it will do so "in due course".

Labour's shadow attorney general, Emily Thornberry, was disdainful of the government's plans, noting that it had failed to take advantage of an opportunity offered by Brexit to cut energy bills.

"For all this talk from the government about the potential legislative freedom we have outside the EU, they still refuse to make a concrete change the Labour Party has been demanding in this area for months, which is the removal of VAT on people's energy bills. The British public overwhelmingly support Labour's proposed change, and it is time the government started listening," she said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times