LONDON — British lawmakers have backed controversial government plans to scrub all remaining EU laws still on the statute books by the end of the year, despite resistance from a handful of Conservative rebels.
The Retained EU Law Bill passed by 59 votes at its third reading stage in the House of Commons Wednesday. A host of efforts from opposition and Conservative MPs to amend the bill were comfortably defeated. The legislation will now move to the House of Lords, where it’s expected to face opposition from the upper chamber’s large constituency of anti-Brexit peers.
The bill requires all U.K. government departments to either repeal or reform all EU-derived law — said to number around 4,000 pieces of legislation — which stayed on the U.K. books after Brexit. They must do so by the end of this year — a deadline branded unrealistic by some of the bill’s critics.
Originally championed under then-PM Boris Johnson, the bill was backed by both his successor Liz Truss and current PM Rishi Sunak, whose spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that Sunak is sticking with the bill and its deadline.
But the plans have spooked a number of MPs, business groups and civil servants worried about a rush to repeal, a lack of government capacity to run a proper review, and the potential for key laws to effectively expire by accident.
EU-derived regulations cover a wide range of areas in U.K. law, including on workers’ rights and environmental policy.
A group of Tory rebels, among them former Brexit Secretary David Davis, have also raised concerns the bill will rob parliament of the opportunity to scrutinize changes.
“It’s not democratic,” Davis told the Commons. “But it’s also going to be inefficient and possibly incompetent.”
Davis was one of four Tory MPs to rebel against the government by voting for an amendment from Labour MP Stella Creasy, which would have given parliament the power to vote on any EU laws the government decided to scrap. That amendment was defeated by 53 votes.
No Tory MPs were recorded as voting against the unamended bill.