Tory peers join rebellion to thwart Brexit bonfire of EU laws

Jacob Rees-Mogg defends Retained EU Law Bill

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Tory peers have joined a rebellion against plans for a bonfire of EU laws. The Retained EU Law Bill is due to have its second reading in the Lords this afternoon.

The Bill paves the way for some 4,000 Brussels-derived laws still on the UK statute book after Brexit to be scrapped by the end of the year, unless they are specifically kept or replaced.

But ahead of the debate, a number of Conservative peers have signed a cross-party letter expressing fury at the legislation.

The letter to Lord Callanan, the minister overseeing the Bill in the Lords, was organised by Labour MP Stella Creasy, who chairs the pro-EU Labour Movement for Europe.

It has been signed by Tory peers including Lord Clarke, Lord Powell, Lord Patten and Lord Young, as well as Labour figures such as former TUC chairman Baroness O’Grady.

The signatories are understood to have branded the legislation as “disastrous”.

They are also demanding more oversight on decisions over axing retained EU laws.

Ms Creasy 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.”

The rebellion could force major changes to the Bill as the Tories do not have an overall majority in the Lords.

It comes after Conservative former Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg last month warned peers against obstructing the legislation.

Mr Rees-Mogg, who spearheaded the Bill during his time in government, said: “As the Bill passed the Commons with a large majority I hope the Lords will recognise its strong democratic mandate. Although there are many Peers who have never liked the referendum result they are there to revise technical detail not to obstruct the voters.”

The Bill had been expected to run into significant opposition in the Lords.

Labour peer Lord Adonis, who wants to see the UK rejoin the EU, previously blasted it as the “worst poisoned pill of Brexit”.

Speaking after the legislation cleared its final Commons hurdles, he said: “The House of Lords now has a vitally important job to do with the EU Retained Law Bill.

“This is the worst poisoned pill of Brexit – a straightforward attempt to burn the house down before the election, hoping that Brexit can’t then be reversed. Utterly vile.”

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