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Thatcherites join rebellion against Rishi Sunak’s promise to slash EU red tape

Rishi Sunak - Kin Cheung/AP
Rishi Sunak - Kin Cheung/AP

Ministers in Margaret Thatcher’s government have joined the rebellion against Rishi Sunak’s EU red tape law, with defeat potentially looming in the House of Lords.

The Prime Minister is pursuing a Brexit Freedoms Bill which will decide whether to keep, amend or scrap up to 4,000 pieces of EU-era legislation by the end of the year.

But a growing Conservative rebellion risks scuppering the push in the Lords, where the legislation is debated on Monday, as some Tories join forces with Labour and Liberal Democrats.

A letter voicing disapproval about the push sent to Lord Callanan, the minister overseeing the Bill in the Lords, has been signed by a number of Conservatives who served under Mrs Thatcher.

They include Lord Clarke, who held multiple roles in Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet, Lord Powell, who was her private secretary for foreign affairs, Lord Patten, who was her environment secretary, and Lord Young, who held various ministerial posts in the 1980s.


The letter, which was organised by Stella Creasy, the Labour MP, was also signed by prominent figures on the Left, such as Baroness O'Grady, the former TUC chairman.

The signatories are understood to have dubbed the legislation “disastrous” and demanded that more oversight is given to parliamentarians before decisions on EU-era laws are made.

Given the Conservatives do not have an overall majority in the Lords and the Tory rebellion is growing, Westminster insiders have predicted major changes to the Bill are all but certain.

Ms Creasy, who chairs the Labour Movement for Europe, told The Telegraph: “MPs and Lords in all parties are of one mind this Bill represents a fundamental shift of power that must be rewritten.

“Our constituents expect us to be able to make direct representations and amendments to legislation when their rights are at stake, not simply to be handed ‘like it or lump it’ proposals to rubber-stamp.

“Their lordships have picked up the baton for parliamentary sovereignty - it is up to us all to defend it.”

'Avoid creating a regulatory mess'

Sir Robert Buckland, the Tory MP and former justice secretary, said: “I am now deeply concerned that the pace and timescale of this proposed change threatens uncertainty to our rules that is not good for the rule of law.

“With the Government’s own dashboard already having to be updated to account for swathes of regulations that have simply been missed so far, we must avoid creating a regulatory mess.”

Downing Street figures have repeatedly rejected suggestions a change in timing is likely, arguing that the reviewing of EU-era laws is still intended to be completed by the end of the year.