Government to launch ‘Brexit Freedoms’ Bill to amend outdated EU law

Downing Street says the move is part of a cross-Government drive which it claims will ‘cut £1 billion of red tape’ for UK businesses.

The Government is planning to bring forward a new ‘Brexit Freedoms’ Bill to make it easier to amend outdated EU law (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
The Government is planning to bring forward a new ‘Brexit Freedoms’ Bill to make it easier to amend outdated EU law (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Government is planning to bring forward a “Brexit Freedoms” Bill to make it easier to amend outdated EU law, as part of a drive which it claims will “cut £1 billion of red tape” for UK businesses.

The Bill will affect the handling of retained EU law – Brussels-made regulations which were preserved in the UK statute book for legal continuity after the Brexit transition period ended in 2020.

The Government has previously made clear that it intends to eventually amend, replace or repeal all of the retained law that it deems “not right for the UK”.

But Downing Street said that, under current rules, changing or scrapping regulations in the pipeline of outdated legislation would take “several years” because of a long-winded alteration process.

It said primary legislation is needed for many changes, even if “minor and technical”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Carl Recine/PA)

Boris Johnson said that, while the UK will not diverge from the EU rulebook “for the sake of it”, the legislation will help secure investment in cutting-edge technologies.

“There are things we can do differently and we think in a way that will encourage business to invest even more,” the Prime Minister told broadcasters during a visit to Tilbury Docks.

“In all the areas where the UK is strong – cyber, artificial intelligence, all the cutting-edge technologies of the future – we are going to make sure we do things differently and better, where appropriate.

“We won’t diverge for the sake of it but we are going to make sure this the number one place to do business and invest because of the freedoms that we have.”

Downing Street did not specify exactly what provisions the Bill will contain to speed up reforms, or how it calculated that businesses would save £1 billion through the cutting of red tape.

Officials are sifting through all of the retained laws “to determine if they are beneficial to the UK”, Downing Street said.

Attorney General Suella Braverman said the new Bill means the UK can move away from outdated laws that are the result of “unsatisfactory compromises within the EU”.

Attorney General Suella Braverman (Aaron Chown/PA)

“These rules often had limited meaningful parliamentary scrutiny, and no democratic legitimacy in the UK at all,” she said.

“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.”

The Bill is also expected to end the special status that EU law holds in the UK’s legal framework.

“Despite our exit from the bloc, EU laws made before January 1 2020 continue to have precedence in our domestic framework,” Downing Street said.

“This is simply not compatible with our status as a sovereign, independent country and the Government will bring it to an end as quickly as possible.”

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

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Mr Johnson said: “Getting Brexit done two years ago today was a truly historic moment and the start of an exciting new chapter for our country.

“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.”

Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay said leaving the EU has “given us the opportunity to establish our own rules for how we live and govern our lives in Britain”.

“The Brexit Freedoms Bill will continue to make it easier to remove cumbersome EU laws which were initially retained to ease our transition but which do not meet the future needs of the UK,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Government has published a new policy document setting out how it intends to take advantage of Brexit to “transform the UK into the best-regulated economy in the world”.

Labour’s shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry (Jacob King/PA)

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said: “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.”

Scottish Culture Secretary Angus Robertson criticised the idea, which he said was devised with “little discussion, consultation with, or indeed respect for, the Scottish Parliament and Government”.

He added: “This makes a mockery of the UK Government’s recent commitment to reset relationships with the devolved governments.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said she had a “good call” with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic ahead of further talks this week to try to resolve the impasse over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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