Non-compete clauses will be slashed to three months in a bid to boost competition between employers, ministers announced today, as a key EU ‘sunset’ clause is ditched.
It comes as part of a move by the government to scrap its own plans for thousands of EU laws to automatically expire at the end of the year, in what was dubbed a post-Brexit bonfire.
Business secretary Kemi Badenoch told MPs the government was amending the Retained EU Law Bill (REUL) which would have seen laws copied over to the UK after Brexit deleted from the statute books, unless specifically retained or replaced with new legislation.
Campaigners had warned the government this so-called ‘sunset clause’ could lead to crucial laws and regulations simply vanishing or being overlooked – but Brexit-backing MPs are likely to be angered by the government’s move, with Jacob Rees-Mogg telling the BBC the decision showed ministers “incapability”.
In a statement, Badenoch said her department would “replace the current sunset in the bill with a list of the retained EU laws that we intend to revoke at the end of 2023” when the EU bill is back in Parliament next week.
She said: “This provides certainty for business by making it clear which regulations will be removed from our statute book, instead of highlighting only the REUL that would be saved.”
Government has revoked or reformed more than 1,000 pieces of EU law since Brexit, Badenoch added, and will now directly revoke around 600 under the REUL bill, and around a further 500 as part of the financial services and markets bill and the procurement bill.
“We are committed to lightening the regulatory burden on businesses and helping to spur economic growth,” she said.
Deregulation measures announced today include changes to employment law on recording working hours which the government says could help save firms around £1bn a year – while retaining the EU’s 48-hour working time directive.
Titled ‘Smarter Regulation to Grow the Economy’, the regulatory reform update also included simplifying regulations that apply when a business transfers to a new owner.
Labour blasted the government’s U-turn as “humiliating”, with shadow cabinet office minister Jenny Chapman saying: “After wasting months of parliamentary time, the Tories have conceded that this universally unpopular bill will damage the economy.
“They are now trying to adopt some of Labour’s amendments to try and rescue this sinking ship of a bill.”
And Lib Dem peer Lord Fox added: “The government have dug themselves into a hole with this bill.
“Both the public and businesses should be able to go on without being constantly concerned by the precariousness of so many of our laws.
But Badenoch insisted she had listened to businesses’ concerns and that her priority was “to tackle the red tape that holds back UK firms, reduces their competitiveness in global markets and hampers their growth”, adding: “We are taking back control of our laws after Brexit.”