A campaign video for Rishi Sunak’s Tory leadership bid which vows to shred thousands of EU rules and regulations has been branded “absurdly stupid and irresponsible”.
The former chancellor has vowed to repeal or replace more than 2,000 laws before the next general election as part of an anti-Brussels “arms race” with rival Liz Truss.
The foreign secretary promised to ditch or replace all the regulations even faster, by the end of 2023, despite warnings of disruptive “chaos” from lawyers, business leaders and union bosses.
In an attempt to get one up on Truss on Brexit policy, Sunak has now shared a video showing dummy documents being put through a shredding machine to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the EU anthem.
But experts condemned the attempt to suggest regulations in vital areas such as employment rights and environmental protections could simply be torn up without careful consideration.
Mujtaba Rahman, the respected Brexit analyst at Eurasia Group, tweeted: “What an absurdly stupid and irresponsible video. Nonsense”, adding that the leadership contest had become a “desperate race to bottom”.
George Peretz QC, a specialist in public law, pointed out that the legislation being shredded” would include aircraft safety regulation and rules on unfair terms in consumer contracts.
“The idea that “reviewing” complex and important legislation of that kind is something that can be done swiftly is irresponsible nonsense,” he tweeted.
Mr Sunak promised that he “will have scrapped or reformed all of the EU law, red tape and bureaucracy” by the next election, vowing to conduct a review of all retained rules within 100 days of taking office.
Truss and Sunak have promise to axe or amend 100 per cent of those EU rules in the next couple of years – much faster than the 2026 deadline recently proposed by Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Ms Truss said her new “sunset” deadline of the end of next year would “accelerate plans to get EU law off our statute books so we can boost growth and make the most of our new-found freedoms”.
Jonathan Jones QC – the government’s former top legal adviser, who quit in 2020 over its Brexit policy – told The Independent last month that the “arms race” rush was potentially “dangerous”.
He said it would be impossible for parliament and relevant industries to scrutinise each change to rules on food safety, chemical safety or employment rights.
Jones added: “It risks being chaotic. It’s hopeless to try to change everything very quickly. You’re introducing a huge amount of uncertainty for businesses and consumers.”
Eleonor Duhs, a lawyer who worked on the government’s 2018 EU Withdrawal Act, has also warned that a self-imposed “cliff edge” for scrapping all Brussels regulations could drive investors away from the UK.
According to a government dashboard first published last month, there were 2,417 pieces of retained EU law on the UK statue books after Brexit, but 229 of those have now been repealed or replaced, and a further 182 amended.