Officials are said to have discovered another 1,400 pieces of retained EU law that the government had hoped to ditch by the end of next year under Brexit legislation tabled by Jacob Rees-Mogg.
It marks another blow for the planned “bonfire” of Brussels regulations, following an admission that an existing dashboard containing around 2,400 EU laws was “not comprehensive”.
The 1,400 “long-forgotten” retained laws were turned up by researchers at the National Archives, according to the Financial Times – making the plan to wipe EU rules from the statute books more difficult.
Mr Rees-Mogg, the ex-business secretary, had tabled the retained EU law bill to switch off Brussels rules by the end of 2023 in a bid to capitalise on the “opportunities of Brexit”.
But the timetable appears in doubt Rishi Sunak abandoned his own promise to complete a review of exiting retained EU law within 100 days.
Lawyers, business leaders and union bosses have warned of “chaos” in the rush to scrap thousands of pieces of legislation, warning it could putting employment and environmental protections at risk.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has also previously warned against “deregulation for its own sake”, saying it could cause yet more post-Brexit friction for businesses.
Jonathan Jones QC – the government’s former top legal adviser – told The Independent the rush was “dangerous” because it would be impossible for MPs and relevant industries to scrutinise each change.
Mr Rees-Mogg’s proposed legislation does allow for ministers to ask for the “sunset” clause to repeal or replace EU laws to be pushed back until 2026.
And Grant Shapps, his successor at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), reportedly wants to slow down the process after warning that it could require hundreds of extra staff.
Junior Tory minister Dean Russell said 77 full-time staff at BEIS were working on the bill following questions by Labour MP Stella Creasy on civil service capacity. He also conceded that the government dashboard for EU retained law was “not comprehensive”.
The extra 1,400 EU laws not previously on the dashboard were identified by the National Archives, it is understood – but has not yet been verified.
The government said the list of retained EU laws was “ongoing” and would be “refined over time” as more retained of the legislation is “repealed, replaced, or identified”.
A government spokesperson said: “The government is committed to taking full advantage of the benefits of Brexit, which is why we are pushing ahead with our Retained EU Law Bill, which will end the special legal status of all retained EU law and allow us to ensure our laws and regulations best fit the needs of the country.”