The UK’s landmark ‘Brexit freedoms’ bill has been criticized as the impact assessment was ‘not fit for purpose’

The government’s landmark ‘Brexit freedoms’ bill, intended to purge swathes of EU law from the UK law book, has come under fire from official experts, who have warned that an impact assessment signed by ministers was “not fit for purpose”.

Ministers have been accused of failing to carry out a thorough small business impact assessment of the bill, under which several thousand EU laws would automatically expire at the end of 2023 unless they have already been revised, modified, renewed or deleted.

The successful EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill was a landmark reform of Liz Truss’ short-lived government, targeting EU law in areas covering areas such as consumer protection, rights at work and the environment.

But the government’s own regulatory experts gave a ‘red’ warning over how the Department for Business assessed the cost to business of the regulatory overhaul, which is expected to be completed by December 2023.

The bill was promoted by former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg as a way to cleanse the UK law book of unnecessary EU regulation, but has turned into a bureaucratic nightmare in Whitehall, forcing hundreds of officials to scrutinize EU laws.

An impact assessment by the former Rees-Mogg department has been the subject of scathing analysis by the Regulatory Policy Committee, a BEIS-sponsored advisory body to review the impact of regulation.

The RPC report, released on Monday, bluntly concluded that the BEIS assessment was “not fit for purpose”.

He said: ‘The department has not sufficiently considered or sought to quantify all of the impacts of the bill. Furthermore, the impact analysis does not take into account the impact on small and micro-enterprises consistent with better regulation. »

The report continues that BEIS had included a range of statistics in its report but that its impact assessment had “misinterpreted” some of the figures relating to the sectors of the economy where many small businesses operate.

“The quality of the different areas of analysis in the impact evaluation is either low or very low, meaning that they provide inadequate support for decision-making,” the RPC said.

He also accused ministers of crafting policies in the dark: “We are not assured that the impact of changing or removing every element of REUL will be calculated or understood within the framework of the proposals currently in place. .”

Earlier this month, the Financial Times revealed that the EU’s legislative purge had run into a new problem after the National Archives discovered 1,400 more pieces of legislation, on top of the 2,400 laws previously identified by ministers .

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has started backing away from his ambitious proposals to cleanse the UK lawbook of unwanted EU laws, abandoning his promise to complete the exercise within 100 days. Many in Whitehall expect him to drop the 2023 deadline soon.

Allies of Grant Shapps, the new business secretary, say he wants to extend the 2023 deadline for the “sunset clause”. “Grant thinks things should be done at a healthier pace,” an aide said.

The Trades Union Congress said the bill was “reckless”. Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: ‘The Tories have set off a ticking time bomb under hard-won workers’ rights.

The Department for Business said the CPP’s verdict was “disappointing”, but argued that since the successful EU legislation bill was an “enabling” measure which applied to a range of sectors and departments , it was “difficult to quantify the impacts in the impact assessment at this stage”. time”.

He added that he was committed to advancing the bill, which “would allow us to ensure that our laws and regulations best meet the needs of the country, cutting unnecessary bureaucracy to support jobs, while maintaining important protections and safeguards”.

Ruth Chambers of the Greener UK coalition, which represents 10 major UK environmental groups, said the bill was a “costly distraction” for Parliament and the civil service that could lead to damaging loopholes in environmental laws. “This [report] is further proof that the bill needs to be rethought,” she added.

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