Kemi Badenoch has been reprimanded by Conservative MPs and the Speaker of the House of Commons after paring back on flagship post-Brexit plans to review or repeal all EU laws from Britain’s statute by the end of this year.
On Thursday, the business and commerce secretary said the politically controversial decision to dump the retained “Sunset” clause of the EU bill it was hers, and not Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s.
While business and conservation groups welcomed the pushback, meaning more than 2,500 EU-derived regulations will remain in UK law beyond December, hardline Tory Brexiters reacted with fury.
Former Brexit chances minister Jacob Rees-Mogg questioned whether the decision, first confirmed in a written statement from the Commons on Wednesday, was the result of “civil service idleness or a lack of ministerial momentum”.
Mark Francois, President of the European Research Group (ERG) from Eurosceptic Conservative backbench MPs, described it as a “mass escalation”, asking Badenoch: “What the hell are you playing at?”
In response, Badenoch said he had to “be responsible and see what we can make sure is deliverable”, adding that ERG members were taking “the same side” as Labour.
“If I’m upsetting people on both sides, I’m probably taking the pragmatic middle ground and I’m very happy to do it,” she said.
Chairman Sir Lindsay Hoyle also censured Badenoch on Thursday for announcing “such an important matter” as a major amendment to the legislation. He said it was “very regrettable” that the ministers had chosen to release the decision in a newspaper article accompanied by a written statement, rather than an oral statement.
Badenoch apologized, saying that he was “very sorry that the sequence we chose was not to your liking.”
Amid growing speculation that his emphasis on pragmatism targeted Conservative leadership ambitions, Badenoch’s allies defended his decision to scrap the sunset clause.
One said: “Kemi is a true Brexiter. She delivered CPTPP [an 11-member Asia-Pacific trade bloc] to show the country a brave future outside the EU, and she is the one in control of the REUL process. She is a doer and not a talker.”
On the other hand, a second Brexit front was opened on Thursday after the president of the USA. Joe Biden He said he had visited the island of Ireland last month to make sure “the British stay out of it” following tensions between London and Brussels over trade deals for Northern Ireland.
“I have to go back to Ireland to. . .[the 25th anniversary of]the Irish Settlements, to make sure they were not. . . the British didn’t fuck around and Northern Ireland didn’t back away from their commitments,” Biden said at a fundraising event in New York.
Downing Street said Britain’s priority had been “supporting the Good Friday Agreement” and that it had engaged in “substantive work” with the EU to resolve trade deals in Northern Ireland.
Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay said Biden’s comments showed he did not understand the deadlock blocking the restoration of the Stormont executive. “I wish you would use his good offices to solve these problems instead of irritating them,” he said.
Other conservatives defended Biden’s intervention. Simon Hoare, chairman of the House of Commons Northern Ireland Committee, told the Evening Standard that the UK’s “lack of seriousness” about international law meant that “we should not be surprised if people, including our closest geopolitical ally, nearby, they feel the need to check in to make sure everything is okay. ”.