As the sun set on December 31, 2022, experts estimated that Brexit had cost the UK government a total of £40 billion in lost tax revenue. Yet the financial strains of leaving the European Union are, evidently, far from over.
The government’s controversial Retained EU Law bill, championed by Jacob Rees-Mogg, is reportedly costing Whitehall tens of millions in its plans to rewrite almost 4,000 European regulations simply because Brexiteers dislike them since they were originally drafted by the hated EU.
Last week, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) revealed that it had spent, in a mere two months, £600,000 on staffing alone as part of its efforts to review the bill. In light of this ministers have requested other departments not to shed light on how the bill has affected their departmental budgets. However, analysis by the Observer implies that the amount from all government departments could add up to tens of millions of pounds.
This would include, for example, costs from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Treasury and the Department for Transport which have further regulations to consider. HMRC, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care also have sizable tasks to complete.
Concerns over the costs are not new. Last year, during his tenure as business secretary, Rees-Mogg was warned that BEIS would need 400 staff in order to determine which laws the government wanted to scrap and what the consequences of this would be. This is to cover just 318 (which the department is responsible for) of the 4,000 laws Rishi Sunak plans to abolish or reform by the end of the year.
The tasks staff must wade through are far from simple. For example, BEIS civil servants must weigh in on the “ecodesign of glandless standalone circulators” (a type of fan) and need to determine whether “regulations that make certain lead crystal glass isn’t toxic” need abolishing or not.
DHSC was also informed it would need 100 individuals to tackle the 137 pieces of legislation it had identified so far. Defra has about 1100 laws to review. This includes regulations on “aquatic animal quarantine” or “how to ensure that chicks exported to Finland do not have salmonella”.
But despite these warnings, the government continues to see this entirely pointless bonfire of rights as a worthy use of time – and money.
The bill returns to parliament on Wednesday where MPs can have their final say. In the meantime, the Brexit tab continues to grow.