Legal experts say Rees-Mogg move on 2,400 laws ‘anti-democratic’ | The law | Catch My Job


Leading lawyers have sounded the alarm over Jacob Rees-Mogg’s proposals for post-Brexit laws that could see 2,400 laws disappear overnight – including bans on animal testing of cosmetics, workers’ rights and environmental protections.

Lawyers, including a former British government legal official who devised the concept of the EU-retained law for Theresa May, branded the move “anti-democratic” and “absolutely disgraceful”.

A raft of laws, including equal pay for men and women, pension rights for same-sex married couples, food standards and aviation safety rules, could all but disappear or be badly amended, they warn.

The retained EU (Repeal and Reform) Bill will receive a second reading on Tuesday. It is designed so that 47 years of laws created during EU membership will expire on December 31, 2023 under the so-called sunset clause.

“A lot of laws will be changed without any control by a dying government that few people respect,” said George Peretz KC, a specialist in European law.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “This is a countdown to disaster for all working people. That would mean turning the clock back to Dickensian times when workers had no rights.

“In a financial crisis with a government without a head, people need stability and support, not a bonfire of numerous employment rights.”

“Ministers must act now to reassure everyone that hard-won protections will not be chipped away.” A free-for-all giving green light to unscrupulous bosses is not the path to economic growth.

“All of this is deeply objectionable on two grounds – it’s anti-democratic and anti-growth,” Perec said, noting that employers need legal certainty on employment laws, technical standards and other matters before expanding or investing.

“We are a democracy and we have a process of passing laws in parliament.” People can write to their MPs, industry is consulted, we have debates in the House of Commons and in the Lords. This is a completely anti-democratic process,” he added.

Eleanor Duhs, a partner at City law firm Bates Wells and a former government lawyer who helped devise the concept of retained EU law, said the government’s plans were completely at odds with May’s vision to remove EU law with “full scrutiny and proper debate”.

The concept of retained law was created for a smooth transition, not as a target practice for Brexiteers, she argued.

“This bill gives ministers the power to quickly and without proper scrutiny repeal and replace a huge part of what is now domestic law.” “This is unprecedented, reckless and undemocratic,” Duhs said.

She also raised questions about the use of precious resources to draft legislation in Whitehall.

“It took more than two years and a huge amount of civil service resources to draft over 600 pieces of legislation to prepare the statute for Brexit. “Those changes were technical and simple compared to the complexity of what will be required under this bill,” she said.

“At a time when civil service resources are dwindling, the task of rewriting this vast body of legislation in a few short months seems impossible.” Errors, omissions and loopholes in the law are inevitable.”

The idea that 2,400 laws could be overturned in just over a year was “total bullshit,” Peretz said, but possibly because of the “extraordinary power” the government was wielding to push the laws over the December 2023 cliff.

“Nowhere is there an obligation for ministers to consult anyone.” “Under this law, ministers can simply allow vital rights and protections for consumers, workers, the environment and animal welfare to fall without parliament having a chance to prevent it,” he said.

“This has nothing to do with whether you support Brexit or not.” You can be a fanatical supporter of Brexit and still think it’s not the right thing to do.

“All this is done in the greatest haste, and when you do things in a hurry there is a risk of making mistakes.”

The bill also gives ministers the power to rewrite or “update” the rules, with no obligation to consult and at most only a two-hour debate in parliament to say yes or no, but, despite Rees-Mogg’s promises that Brexit could mean higher standards than the EU, it does not give the power to improve standards and protection, only to reduce them.

Environmentalists including Chris Packham have already sounded the alarm that environmental rules protecting rare flora and fauna are not being enforced in 38 new investment zones in England to allow “fast-track development”.


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