Kemi Badenoch’s challenge to make the most of Brexit
Almost seven years after the UK voted for Brexit, it will astonish many that the country still retains any EU law on the statute books at all. It is an indictment of Civil Service inertia and of the efforts of establishment Remainers to thwart the whole affair, but also of the failure of successive Conservative administrations to think imaginatively about how the UK can best use its new legislative and regulatory freedoms.
Now Kemi Badenoch, the Business Secretary, has decided to limit the scope of the Retained EU Law Bill, which was originally intended to abolish more than 4,000 EU laws by the end of the year. The Bill will instead scrap a more modest 800 or so. This will be seen as a pragmatic move, a recognition that the Bill as it stood was likely to get bogged down in the Lords. Mrs Badenoch is a Leave voter who has shown that she has the right instincts on how to exploit the opportunities that Brexit presents, notably in her work to sign the UK up to the trans-Pacific trade deal.
But the Government does still need to follow through on its promises on regulatory reform. Mrs Badenoch’s job is now perhaps the most important in the Cabinet. Companies increasingly view the UK as a hostile environment in which to operate, thanks in large part to recent tax rises. If the fiscal situation is not going to change, ministers must place greater weight on deregulation to show Britain is open for business.
It is also becoming urgent politically. We may be just a year away from a general election that present indications suggest will return a Labour majority government with questionable views on Brexit. The Tories will need a compelling answer when voters ask: what has leaving the EU done for us?
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