Tory MPs have launched scathing attacks on the government for U-turning on its decision to remove all EU legislation from UK law by the end of 2023.
Kemi Badenoch, the business and trade secretary, confirmed the move on Wednesday, putting a stop to a key pledge of Rishi Sunak’s leadership campaign last summer.
She said it had been her decision to remove the so-called sunset clause, as it risked “legal uncertainty”, so a new approach was needed.
But staunch Brexiteers within the Conservative ranks have criticised the change, with former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg accusing Mr Sunak of “behaving like a Borgia”.
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A fiery session in the Commons began on Thursday with a telling off for Ms Badenoch for making the announcement via a written statement, rather than coming to the despatch box.
Answering an urgent question on the policy change, she told MPs: “I am very sorry that the sequencing that we chose was not to your satisfaction.”
But Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle met her tone with a tirade, saying her comment was “totally not acceptable”.
“Who do you think you are speaking to?” he added. “I am the defender of this House and these benches on both sides, I am not going to be spoken to by a secretary of state who is absolutely not accepting my ruling.
“Members should hear it first, not a WMS (written ministerial statement) or what you decide.
“These members have been elected by their constituents and they have the right to hear it first and it is time this government recognises we are all elected, we are all members of parliament and use the correct manners.”
Ms Badenoch apologised, saying she was “very sorry she did not meet the standards expected”, before beginning a defence of the change in government policy.
She said the move would “provide the legal clarity and certainty” for businesses, while still seeing 600 pieces of EU law revoked by the end of the year.
The minister also said the new approach would allow “the space for longer term and more ambitious reforms”, adding: “We will still fully take back control of our laws and end supremacy and the special status of EU law.”
But a raft of Tory backbenchers stood to criticise her plans.
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Mark Francois, who chairs the Brexit-backing European Research Group (ERG), asked why the government had “performed a massive climbdown on its own bill despite having such strong support from its own backbenches”, saying to Ms Badenoch: “What on earth are you playing at?”
Sir Desmond Swayne said: “The advantage of a sunset [clause] is it provides a sense of urgency. Now there isn’t one, is there?”
And Michael Fabricant said she had been “tin-eared” by not understanding the upset it would cause.
Ms Badenoch also faced a barrage of criticism from opposition MPs about its handling of the issue.
Labour shadow business minister, Justin Madders, called it “an absolute shambles”.
He added: “It was completely unrealistic, reckless and frankly arrogant to think you could strike 4,000 laws from the statute book in the timescale of the bill.
“It is no use blaming the blob or the anti-growth coalition or the BBC.
“This humiliating U-turn is completely down to government hubris that has found itself crashing up against reality.”
The SNP’s Pete Wishart also criticised the minister’s tone during the debate, saying she was “doing herself no favours at all with her patronising and arrogant manner”.
He added: “Isn’t it just the case that in the haste to create this hard Brexit utopia, the reality has just finally caught up with them?
“Doesn’t it look like the Conservative Party, this fragile Brexit coalition, is now starting to fragment into its constituent parts?”
And Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney echoed his sentiment, saying the Conservative Party was “devouring itself yet again”.
But a few MPs from her own side offered support, with Tory Sir Bob Neil saying the change in approach was “sensible and pragmatic”, and done in “a very Conservative and pro-business fashion”.