The Scottish and Welsh governments have hit out at Tory plans to remove thousands of EU rules, labelling the proposals as “last-minute”.
It comes after Westminster announced on Monday it will push forward a “Brexit Freedoms Bill”, which will remove all unwanted “retained law” using subtle backstage regulations, rather than allowing full parliamentary scrutiny.
Boris Johnson insisted the plans “will further unleash the benefits of Brexit and ensure that businesses can spend more of their money investing, innovating and creating jobs.”
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But senior ministers have told The Guardian the UK government has failed to thoroughly consult ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, despite the big impact it will have on areas which devolved governments are responsible for.
The controversial move to scrap European Union laws comes as a series of alleged parties involving government officials has sparked public backlash and a police investigation, threatening Boris Johnson’s top job.
Mick Antoniw, the Welsh government’s constitution minister, said after a meeting on the Tory plans that they would “drive a coach and horses through the concept of mutual consent”.
Meanwhile Angus Robertson, the Scottish constitution affairs secretary, said the move goes against Boris Johnson’s promise last month to promote “mutual respect, maintaining trust and positive working” between the four governments.
“Within days of the UK government promising more respectful ways of working, we were informed of what is clearly a rushed exercise over the weekend with nothing more than a vague verbal briefing,” Robertson said.
He added: “If these proposals involve changing the law in devolved policy areas, then pressing ahead without the consent of the Scottish parliament would demonstrate yet again the UK government’s intent to undermine devolution.”
Before he quit his role last year, former Brexit Secretary David Frost suggested the government would seek to scrap EU laws on data privacy, genetically-modified agriculture and vehicle standards. And although the Bill is yet to be published, it is likely to include many areas that fall under the devolved power’s responsibility.
But a UK government source told The Guardian that the devolved governments’ criticism is unjustified, because government meetings are often set up without much notice.
Dr Ronan Cormacain, senior research fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, said the plans seem to be “proposing a system to change EU law which bypasses parliament. Under the guise of taking back control, it would appear that the executive is taking away control from parliament and giving it to ministers.
“There is nothing wrong with making new laws that deviate from the EU. There is everything wrong with bypassing parliament to do so.”
Sarah Olney MP, Lib Dem business spokesperson, added: “This is sneaking through a bonfire of retained law without proper scrutiny. This is likely to end badly for farmers and businesses already shafted by this government.”
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