Ministers have failed to take advantage of the UK’s freedom from EU regulations since Brexit, despite , a new think tank report has said.
A new report from the Institute for Government (IfG) argues that Whitehall departments are too “siloed” from each other, preventing ministers from changing laws to reflect Britain’s departure from the EU.
The think tank points to Mr Johnson’s declaration on Christmas Eve last year that the UK had “taken back control of every jot and tittle of our regulation in a way which is complete and unfettered”.
But despite that promise, most EU legislation is still on the UK statute books, after being copied over into domestic law during the Brexit process.
Experts say a “bonfire” of regulations in the coming years is unlikely because of costs associated with changing them in UK law.
The report’s authors said the Government had approached regulatory divergence from Europe “like a game of Space Invaders – played blindfolded,” risking costs to British businesses and unintended consequences.
They called for Downing Street to issue clear guidance to government departments on how they should approach the freedom to set out new regulations, and reform the processes for approving them.
They also point out that, over time, the UK will diverge from the EU in its regulations as European standards change and are not automatically in line with Britain’s.
The UK should develop a system to keep track of regulatory developments in the EU that will affect Britain to avoid any unintended consequences from that process, they argue.
Joe Marshall, a researcher at the IfG, said: “Gaining the ability to do things differently from the EU was a key aim of Brexit – and there are clear benefits to be won. But the government’s siloed approach to regulatory reform risks ad hoc changes and unintended consequences that threaten businesses with new costs and could destabilise the union.”
Jill Rutter, another author, said: “The government must ensure it invests the time and effort needed to make the necessary trade-offs involved and avoid unintended consequences.”
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