Jacob Rees-Mogg makes an unlikely Fairy Godmother. Nonetheless, the Retained EU Law Bill, which he was the driving force behind, has something in common with Cinderella’s magic patron. Just as Cinders’ ball gown and pumpkin carriage disappeared at the stroke of midnight, the bill aims to ensure that any of around 4,000 EU laws that have not been reviewed or repealed by the end of 2023 would spontaneously expire.

And yet like one true of the handsome prince, the legislation could come a cropper at the hands of its very own ugly sisters – or the House of Lords, to you or me. A ‘senior government source’ has told The Times that it was “inevitable” that Rishi Sunak would be forced to abandon the timetable by peers. The Prime Minister may have committed to “reviewing or retaining” every EU law during last summer’s leadership race, and the official line remains that “there are no plans to change the sunset deadline”. Yet a Disney ending does not seem to be anywhere in sight.

To many of my fellow Eurosceptics, this is an obvious source of irritation. None feel this more so than our erstwhile podcast star and ex-Business Secretary. When he spoke to me, he was clear about what a failure to get this legislation enacted would mean. “This is part of embedding Brexit,” he intoned. “If this is done, future governments will find it far more difficult to take us back in.”

Many of these laws were introduced without scrutiny. Rees-Mogg highlighted to me how originally the number under consideration was around 2,400, until more than a thousand more were essentially found down the back of a sofa at the National Archives. Many are inactive and serve only the interests of protectionists. For example, there are many regulations around chemicals that companies fought the introduction of but now defend since they erect non-tariff barriers to companies outside of the EU. Repealing these would deliver a blow to the Anti-Growth Coalition.

Moreover, with these laws left in the Statute Book, Labour would be able to make two arguments. First, we had not truly ‘Got Brexit Done’, since we would still be living under a legal regime we had voted to exit eight years before. Starmer also would raise the spectre of workplace and environmental regulations being scrapped that threaten the safety of employees or our countryside. Only by giving these reforms time to bed in could we allay such scare stories and show the benefits of deregulation.

The case for getting this legislation across the line is therefore strong. The whingeing of Remainer Lords or stay-at-home civil servants can be written off as the idle protests of those who were either never invested in making Brexit a success in the first place, or who don’t want the hassle of the work that implementing it will entail. Rees-Mogg told me that he was informed a single civil servant would be needed to work on every individual law – a clearly ludicrous proposition, with an entire year until the deadline.

Yet even as a former fulsome supporter of Moggmentum, and with all my sympathy for the ex-Business Secretary’s desire to make Brexit as obviously worthwhile, I think that a pausing – or at least a slowing down – of his bonfire of EU laws might be no bad thing.

Since the referendum, if I can extend my analogy further, many Brexiteers have been like the besotted Prince touring his kingdom with Cinderella’s slipper. They are dogged in their pursuit of hard evidence that they have found the sovereignty prize they seek. Be it a blue passport or imperial measures, a tangible example of our independence, our freedom, and our ability to do things differently is what is desperately required to recognize the object of our affection.

Hence the enthusiasm for this bill. Certainly, it could be a Big Bang moment, where the dead hand of Brussels bureaucrats and their dire diktats would be swept purposefully and permanently from our legal order. Yet a slower and steadier approach, rather than a rush into a legal minefield, might be more prudent – and electorally beneficial.

In 2018, the Government decided that existing EU laws should be copied and pasted into domestic law until Parliament had a chance to review, repeal, remove, or reform each piece properly. This made sense. If Brexit was about taking back control of our sovereign democracy, it is surely right that Parliament, rather than any unelected bureaucrat, appointed official, or governmental minister gets to decide what our rules and regulations are.

Yet, as Daniel Finkelstein pointed out in The Times this week, this Bill would replace one form of executive overreach with another, seeing legislation overturned not because it was debated by MPs but because ministers ran out of time. Moreover, for Rees-Mogg to suggest most of this legislation doesn’t matter or is inactive is difficult to tarry with long-standing Eurosceptic arguments about Brussels’ influence being all-pervasive and damaging. Either these rules matter or they don’t. If they don’t, why rush to remove them?

The rush, as the ex-Business Secretary has pointed out, is driven by the general election hurtling towards us in under two years’ time. Yes, Johnson’s stonking majority was won with a promise to ‘Get Brexit Done’. But I think the average voter in the Red Wall cares more about the NHS, surging bills, and small boats than they do the exact regulatory environment chemical companies currently face.

With all that in mind, a relaxation on the throttle might be no bad thing. One can agree wholeheartedly with the ex-Business Secretary’s enthusiasm for tackling protectionism and showing the benefits of Brexit whilst believing that doing so in a way that expands arbitrary government power and creates considerable legal uncertainty might not be without flaws.

With the Red Wall in mind, a better approach might be to hold a strategic review of those EU procurement rules that have often stood in the way of building hospitals here quickly. Swing voters will be more grateful to a government that has cut A&E waiting times by 2024 than has prioritised getting this bill across the line.

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