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Saturday, July 23, 2022

Tory leadership contest could lead to 'bonfire of rights'

It is not many leadership contests where the candidates engage in a race to the bottom but the Tories seem to manage it every time.The latest is tne pronouncement by the Tory front-runner, Liz Truss that she plans to scrap all remaining EU regulations by the end of 2023.

Now, there is no doubt this will appeal to the Tory backwoodsmen and women who make up the electorate in this particular contest, but the outcome of such a move would be especially devastating for trade between the UK and the EU and, of course, many rights we take for granted.

The Guardian says that a Truss premiership could lead to hundreds of laws covering employment and environmental protections disappearing overnight. This is of course a hugely complex task, with all sorts of unforeseen consequences, not that seems to bother Truss:

After the announcement of Truss’s plans, unions warned of the potential impact on EU-derived workers’ protections. “These are all essential, not a nice-to-have,” said Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress. “Let’s call this out for what it is – ideological posturing at the expense of ordinary working people.”

Dave Penman, head of the FDA union, which represent senior civil servants, said the task had to be seen in the context of plans to get rid of one in five civil service jobs over the next three years.

“If a new prime minister also wants to review thousands of pieces of legislation, then something needs to give,” he said. “Any serious government needs to demonstrate how it will match resources with commitments, otherwise this is just fantasy politics.”

Another complication is the fact that diverging from EU standards in areas such as employment or environmental protections could bring retaliation from Brussels, given the terms of the post-Brexit trade deal, not least in terms of extra checks.

“The more divergence there is in practice, the more checks the EU will want to impose,” said Catherine Barnard, deputy director of the UK in a Changing Europe thinktank. “The more divergence there is, the more trade friction there will be.”

Barnard, who is professor of EU law at Cambridge University, said there would be concerns about a plan apparently based on the idea that “any retained EU law is bad”.

“Of course, some of it has worked well,” she said, citing the Equalities Act as an example. The Truss campaign said the Equalities Act would not be included in their plans.

Steve Peers, professor of law at the University of Essex and an expert on EU law, said another issue with a guillotine-like end to any remaining laws would be if some covered taxation. Treasury officials have called for EU-based tax laws to be exempt from such plans.

While it remained unclear what would happen at the end of 2023, Peers said, there was a risk the exercise ended as “a bonfire of rights” rather than Truss’s promised bonfire of red tape.

“It is a massive undertaking, and you wonder how thoroughly it will be done,” he said. “It does seem to prioritise ideology over pragmatism.

“I wonder if reviewing what I think would be 2,000 laws in 15 months is the right priority during a cost of living crisis, with lots of other things going on. The UK would have voted for most of them anyway. We have already removed hundreds that don’t work since we’ve left the EU, or that the government wanted to change.”

Who would have thought we could get a successor Prime Minister, who was actually worse than Boris Johnson?
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