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Scrapping EU laws would threaten economic growth, warn business leaders

<span>Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA</span>
Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

A coalition of influential trade unions, business and environmental groups have urged Rishi Sunak’s government to scrap plans for a bonfire of EU regulations by the end of 2023, saying it could put the UK’s economic growth at risk.

In a letter signed by organisations including the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Institute of Directors (IoD) and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, leaders said sweeping away thousands of pieces of EU legislation and legal principles would “cause significant confusion and disruption for businesses, working people and those seeking to protect the environment”.

The letter, which was addressed to the business secretary, Grant Shapps, said the groups were concerned about the loss of “vital” worker, consumer and environmental rights, including those regarding holiday pay, safe working hours and protection from discrimination.

“Making these changes will prove costly and bureaucratic and would undermine the certainty and stability workers and businesses need if the economy is to prosper,” the letter said. That could spell further trouble for the government, which is already preparing for the UK economy to shrink by 1.4% next year, according to forecasts released alongside the government’s autumn statement last week.

Sunak’s government has already received a scathing review of the so-called retained EU law (revocation and reform) bill from experts on the regulatory and policy committee, which advises on the impact of regulations, earlier this week.

The bill was one of the major policy reforms introduced under Liz Truss’s short-lived government, and was then promoted by her business secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg.

But the committee’s subsequent review of the bill – under which thousands of EU laws will automatically expire at the end of 2023 – found that that it was not “fit for purpose”.

It said the department had “not sufficiently considered, or sought to quantify, the full impacts of the bill. In addition, the impact assessment does not include a consideration of the impact on small and micro businesses consistent with better regulation”.

Commenting on the bill alongside the campaign letter sent on Thursday, the TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “This bill has been being rushed through with no consultation and no real thought for the impacts on workers, businesses, consumers and the environment. It is a recipe for chaos.

“Today unions have joined with employers, lawyers, environmental groups and civic society to call on ministers to press stop. This bill must be withdrawn before lasting damage is done,” she added.