As the excitement of triggering Article 50 passes, Britain gets down to the nitty gritty of extricating itself from the EU. The sheer number of laws that need to be repatriated illustrates how much the EU has interfered in British life. The Tories should aim to eradicate as many of them as possible – but not, alas, straight away. The Government is correct to argue that reform will be a piecemeal process.
Britain voted to get out of the EU in order to cut red tape, not just to pin a Union Jack to it.
The Great Repeal Bill will abolish the European Communities Act 1972 and convert all EU law into British law. That is regrettable: it would be nicer to wipe the slate clean. But the transfer of laws is necessary to avoid a legal black hole after Brexit, as is the proposed use of “time limited” secondary legislation to rewrite those laws in order to aid their speedy transition. Labour has, predictably, overreacted – suggesting that this amounts to a powergrab akin to Henry VIII’s.
The Tudor parallel is paranoid and ridiculous. The Government pledges that the Great Repeal Bill “will not aim to make major changes to policy or establish new legal frameworks”. On the contrary, the Government’s willingness to wave regulations through is probably of concern to some Eurosceptics.
The Government, however, is asking Parliament to show patience. The next two years are going to be maddeningly complex. The Government wants to get the divorce over with and prepare the country for life immediately after independence before it turns its attention to reviewing the repatriated legislation. It is in the national interest to make all this happen as smoothly as possible. That said, many voters would judge Brexit a waste of time if it resulted in a regulatory status quo. They voted to get out of the EU in order to cut red tape, not just to pin a Union Jack to it.
Now is the time to start a review of regulations in order to prepare for a future bonfire. The Government should invite businessmen – people who understand the impact and costs of regulation – to assess the repatriated codes and begin earmarking them for deletion. Business no more wants to be bound by British red tape than it does rules invented by the EU. The ultimate goal of this whole process should be to liberate the economy, to set the wealth creators free.