(Bloomberg) — The UK government has signaled it will break its pledge to carry out a “bonfire” of legislation dating from Britain’s membership of the European Union, risking the fury of Conservative Brexit supporters.
Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch told a private meeting of Euroskeptic Conservative MPs on Monday that it would not be possible to remove the laws — which number around 4,000 pieces of legislation — by that deadline, according to a person present at the meeting.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has repeatedly promised that he would review or remove all EU laws from the British statute book by the end of 2023, arguing that doing so would be a tangible benefit of Brexit.
Instead, Badenoch suggested the government would focus on removing a smaller number of EU laws, estimated at around 800, the person said. Badenoch’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. The Telegraph first reported the comments.
Bloomberg reported in November that Sunak had received requests from senior civil servants to delay the Dec. 31, 2023 deadline because it was considered unachievable.
Delivering the plan would require thousands of civil servants to work full-time to meet the deadline, the officials had warned. Staff tasked with reviewing each EU law were given 25 detailed questions to answer on each one, and one official estimated the responses combined would run to about 20 million words.
Despite the reported difficulties with removing the laws, Sunak’s administration had continued to vow that it would stick to its pledge.
The revelation that this now seems unlikely will likely anger Conservative Brexiteer backbenchers who had already opposed Sunak’s Windsor deal with the EU on Northern Ireland trading arrangements. It is another blow to Brexit supporters hoping to show positive results from leaving the European Union in time for the next general election, likely in 2024.
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