LONDON — Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday told his most senior ministers that work to scrub EU regulations still on the U.K. statute books should be a “collective effort” — as he again resisted pressure to push back a crucial deadline to do so.
The Retained EU Law Bill — which orders all government departments to either repeal or reform all EU-derived law still in force by the end of this year — has come under mounting criticism in recent weeks, amid fears the deadline is unachievable and could cause gaps in a host of key legislative areas.
As the bill heads for fresh parliamentary scrutiny, senior Conservative MPs David Davis, Robert Buckland and Bob Neill are among rebels backing a move by the opposition Labour Party to give parliament more oversight of the process.
But the U.K. government is sticking with an end of year deadline for the exercise, Sunak’s official spokesman told reporters at a regular briefing Wednesday.
The spokesman said “quite a lot of advanced work with departments to scope what is needed” is already happening, and insisted ministers have a “grip on what needs to be done.”
Ministers set out work their departments are doing to “fully capitalize on our regulatory freedoms and remove years of burdensome EU regulation” at the Sunak-chaired weekly Cabinet meeting, the spokesman said.
Suank told his top team the work “could be a collective effort across Cabinet which had the potential to drive growth and improve people’s everyday lives.”
House of Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, who supervises the government’s legislative timetable, insisted parliament has the “bandwidth” to honor the end-of-year deadline, saying: “If that means late hours, so be it — MPs come here to get stuff done.”
Speaking at a conference run by the Institute for Government think tank, she predicted the workload could be managed because there “will be things people don’t want to reform… others will be a priority, while some need to be reformed but are not a priority.”
Esther Webber contributed reporting.