Monday, 26 Feb 2024

EU ‘worried UK too competitive’ as peers debate Bill to scrap EU laws

Boris Johnson discusses partygate and Brexit three years on

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Brussels is running scared of the UK’s plans to scrap all remaining EU-made laws as the Retained EU Law Bill continues to be debated in both Houses of Parliament. According to Italian MEP Marco Zanni, the EU is “worried the UK will become too competitive” post-Brexit after peers debated the legislation in the House of Lords on Monday.

Defending Britain’s plans, Mr Zanni wrote on Twitter: “The EU is worried the UK will become too competitive, which is exactly why Conservative and British majorities wanted Brexit: to get rid of absurd rules that unnecessarily burden the system.”

The MEP made the comments as he shared a note titled “EU worried UK is becoming too competitive”, which read: “We hear the first voices from Brussels threatening a trade war with the UK over the Retained EU Law Bill, which is to retire all EU regulations in the UK by the end of the year.

“The absurdity of the claim has a certain Putinesque quality: the UK runs a large trade deficit with the EU and its standards on the environment and workers’ rights are higher than the EU average.

“We note a recent tendency by the EU towards hysteria in defence of its industrial base.”

The legislation has been at the centre of hours of debate on Monday in the House of Lords, with Brexiteer and Remainer peers locking horns on amendments to put forward on the Bill.

The Bill will be the next step in “untangling” Britain from decades of Brussels membership, according to Business minister Lord Callanan.

He defended the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill as it started its passage through the upper chamber having already been through the Commons.

There has been strong criticism of the draft legislation which could see around 4,000 laws amended, repealed or replaced with limited parliamentary scrutiny over each decision.

Lord Callanan said: “The Retained EU Law Bill is the next step in reasserting the sovereignty of Parliament and untangling the UK from nearly 50 years of EU membership.

“Retained EU law was never intended to sit on our statute book indefinitely. Indeed the time is right to review retained EU law and end its special legal category.”

Opponents argue it hands too much power to ministers and threatens workers’ rights, consumer protections and environmental standards.

Crossbench peer Lord Wilson of Dinton told the Lords: “There is no way to get away from it, it is a bad Bill because it will create uncertainty in business and in our communities, and you have heard about the number of organisations which have made that clear.

“It is a bad Bill because it could do real harm in all sorts of areas by meddling very fast with things which matter to the community.”

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The former cabinet secretary added: “Above all it is a shocking Bill, because it will undermine Parliament to a degree which I think is unprecedented, by giving sweeping powers to the executive, and it will make important changes to the precedent to the way that we do legislation.”

Lambasting Leave campaigners, likening one to a fanatical French revolutionary leader, Lord Heseltine said the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill showed “they did not know what they were doing”.

The draft legislation “created a giant question mark” over a swathe of regulations that separated society “from the law of the jungle”, said the former Tory deputy prime minister, whose nickname in Government was Tarzan.

The non-affiliated peer also warned it put inward investment at risk at a time of “economic stress”.

But calls for unelected peers to “tear the Bill apart” were condemned by his former party colleague Lords Dobbs, who branded such a move “utterly undemocratic”.

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The proposals, which have already been before MPs, face a rough ride through the upper chamber.

Criticising prominent Brexiteers, Lord Heseltine accused ex-business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, who had earlier been watching proceedings, of having acted with “Robespierrean fanaticism”.

He said: “This Bill demonstrates… they did not know what they were doing.

“They have now created a giant question mark over a whole realm of regulations that are the custodian that separates us from the law of the jungle. They are what defines a civilised society.

“At a time of economic stress, when we need desperately to increase the levels of investment in our economy, what have they provided? A giant question mark for anyone seeking to know whether to spend a penny piece in the United Kingdom economy.”

In an appeal to peers, he said: “I beg of you, do not let this legislation leave this place unscathed.”

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