Kemi Badenoch has defended her decision to make changes to the Retained EU Law Bill at the European Scrutiny Committee this afternoon.

The business secretary was being questioned by the committee on her department’s decision to drop the REUL Bill which would have removed around 4,000 EU laws in one fell swoop.

Instead, Badenoch announced that the government would remove around 800 laws in a slower, more considered approach to the constitutional changes brought about by Brexit. 

When questioned by hardline Brexiteer David Jones as to why she had reneged on what the British people had voted for, Badenoch responded: “I’m not an arsonist, I’m a Conservative. I don’t think a bonfire of regulations is what we wanted. What we wanted was reform and removal of the things we didn’t need.”

Badenoch also defended herself by referring to the prior confusion surrounding the REUL legislation: “Until I did this, no one knew what was happening.”

She told the Committee: “No one knew what was being revoked or reformed. We could end up in a situation where we tell ourselves there’s a big bonfire of regulations and no one would have known until after the sunset.”

Critics of the Bill have argued that removing 4,000 laws in one fell swoop could create legal chaos for businesses with uncertainty and confusion about what laws and regulation applies where. 

As Iain Martin wrote a couple of weeks ago, the hardline Brexit approach of suddenly ditching huge swathes of laws – many of which the British led on and have become second nature – merely because “they have the taint of the EU” is no way to make policy.

Things became more heated as Jones accused Badenoch of a disrespectful fait accompli by changing the unamended legislation after parliament had already voted on it. 

Badenoch hit back: “Something you’re not saying is we had private meetings where we discussed this extensively…”   

“It’s public knowledge that we had private meetings, because when I thought we were having private meetings, I was reading the content in the Daily Telegraph.”

When asked by Richard Drax MP, “Would you agree we have still not left the EU?”, Badenoch retorted: “I completely disagree.”

This blue-on-blue action over Brexit is a familiar trope infecting the Tory party. But Badenoch is quite right that the hardliners are letting “the perfect be the enemy of the good”.

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