Conservative MP Grant Shapps has called for a “sunset clause” which would kill all European Union laws in the UK after just five years.
Prime Minister Theresa May currently intends to introduce a “Great Repeal Bill” after Brexit, which would in fact roll every existing EU law into UK statute when the country leaves the union.
That will allow the UK to pick and choose which laws it chooses to get rid of, and which to keep, on a gradual basis. She told her party’s conference at the start of October that it will mean that “our laws will be made not in Brussels but in Westminster.”
Shapps wrote in the Times, however, that the legislation is at risk of becoming the “Great Continuity Bill,” as MPs would have no real incentive to get rid of European laws if there was not a deadline to do so.
He said that adding a “sunset clause” where EU laws in the UK expire after five years would force ministers to choose exactly which laws to keep and which ones to get rid of, within a rigid timeframe.
“While it isn’t practical for parliament to debate every clause of EU legislation before we leave, a five-year sunset would allow MPs to scrutinise former EU law, removing job-destroying clauses before the five-year sunset,” he said.
Another senior Tory told The Times on Monday: “People will say things like, ‘Hang on, we’re signing up to the working time directive. Why on earth are we putting all this stuff into our laws when we don’t have to?'”
The working time directive is a set of Brussels legislation which set rules concerning working hours, holidays, and other aspects of employment rights.
Many Tories see it as a major symbol of Brussels interference in the UK economy, and it would likely be one of the first targets of the Great Repeal Bill. Ex-PM David Cameron unsuccessfully tried to opt out from the legislation when he was negotiating for a new EU deal, before the UK voted to leave the union.
Introducing the Great Repeal Bill is likely to be messy and controversial for May and her cabinet in any case. MPs will get a chance to vote on it, and Tories who do not like the idea of EU law coming to the UK could theoretically block it unless major amendments are introduced, such as Shapps’ proposed “sunset clause.”
Another problem is that the parliaments of Northern Ireland and Scotland may have to approve the bill, where EU law is deeply entrenched into the devolved countries.
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