Jacob Rees-Mogg today hit out at Remainers opposed to a bonfire of EU laws. Speaking in a Commons debate on the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, the Tory MP said the legislation was being “enormously over-interpreted” by opposition MPs and “mainly by people who never wanted to leave the EU anyway”.
The former Cabinet minister, who spearheaded the Bill during his time in government, said it was a “technical tidying up operation” aimed at “ensuring that our law has one base”.
Under the Bill, thousands of EU-derived laws will be scrapped at the end of the year unless specifically kept or replaced. But concerns have been raised over the deadline for the mammoth task and that Parliament will not have a meaningful say over what is changed.
MPs voted 297 to 238, majority 59, to give it a third reading and the Bill will now go to the Lords for further scrutiny.
Mr Rees-Mogg told MPs: “This piece of legislation is being enormously misinterpreted by the benches opposite and it has to be said mainly by people who never wanted to leave the EU anyway.
“There is a misconception opposite in so many ways when we get to this Bill and the amendments that are in front of it.
“The amendments themselves are deeply confused because on the one hand there’s a concern this is a great power grab, that this enormously powerful state will snatch power away from Parliament.
“On the other hand they want the regulations to be extended. Well either it’s a great power grab or the regulations should be extended – it can’t be both.
“And the truth is it’s mainly technical. What it is doing is correcting our statute book so that we no longer have laws that refer to European regulations that may themselves have been repealed or amended.
“So we have currently rules that are based on things that are either out of date or possibly even no longer exist. That is no basis for our statute book. That is a technical, tidying-up operation which will apply to the regulations that are kept.
“But it’s also technical in terms of ensuring that our law has one base.”
Meanwhile, fellow Brexiteer Tory Sir Bill Cash said retained EU law is a “massive ball and chain” for the UK that must be removed following Brexit.
Opening the debate, business minister Nusrat Ghani insisted Brussels-derived laws were “never intended to sit on the statute book indefinitely”.
Ms Ghani said: “This Bill is a process, considerable work has been done with officials across Whitehall and the devolved authorities, work has been proportionate and work has been taking place for over 18 months.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of achieving this deadline, the deadline of 2023. Retained EU law was never intended to sit on the statute book indefinitely.
“It is constitutionally undesirable as currently some domestic laws, including acts of Parliament, remain subordinate to some retained EU law.”
But Labour’s Stella Creasy, who tabled an amendment to give MPs greater oversight over the scrapping of retained EU laws, claimed the Bill is “nothing to do with Brexit and everything to do with an audacious ministerial power grab”.
She said: “If this legislation goes through unamended it will stop us doing our job and it’s our job to speak up for our constituents.”
And in stark contrast to his eurosceptic colleagues, former Brexit Secretary David Davis branded the Bill as “not democratic” and as a “pig in a poke”.
Speaking in support of Ms Creasy’s amendment, Mr Davis said: “I say this to the minister, given what was said before from the frontbench, as a Brexiteer, a convinced Brexiteer, a campaigning Brexiteer.
“And what’s more, I would just remind the House given the substance of this Bill, I resigned from Cabinet to preserve the right to diverge from the European Union.
“So I actually agree with the aims of the Bill, but I rather agree with the SNP spokesman about the effectiveness of it in those aims.
“Because looking at it, I voted and I campaigned to improve democracy, I wanted to take back control to give it to Westminster, not to Whitehall, but that is what we’ve got.”