Given the complexity and sensitivity of Brexit negotiations it is unsurprising, though frustrating, that we havent heard a great deal about the kind of country of the UK is going to be when no longer a member of the EU.
Agreeing the terms of departure is taking up an enormous amount of time and energy, while the question of what might follow appears to have been put to one side. Indeed, it seems that the Cabinet cant even agree on a vision for life post-Brexit.
There are those who salivate over the prospect of shredding reams of Brussels-backed regulation, but its hard to detect wild enthusiasm for such a move among the business community – especially in the City.
Thats not to say that, over time, being distinct from the EUs regulatory instincts wont have its advantages (it most certainly will) but as businesses prepare for the mother of all disruptions, the last thing many of them want is an uncertain regulatory environment to follow.
Far from gearing up for a regulatory bonfire, the government is busy implementing EU law as fast as Brussels can produce it. Research by Thomson Reuters Legal Business reveals that the UK has introduced a total of 707 new laws that originated from Brussels since the EU referendum last June.
These are added to around 20,000 existing EU laws that the government will need to review as part of the departure process. The EUs chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, yesterday demanded that the UK signs up to a “non-regression clause” as part of its terms of exit, effectively shackling us to EU regulations on specific areas including taxation.
This would be entirely unacceptable and should be dismissed by the UK as an unworkable proposal. The EU fears a newly competitive UK just off its coast, luring investment, but the Prime Minister and senior members of her Cabinet have repeatedly stressed that Brexit wont lead to a race to the bottom on standards.
Nevertheless, the government must retain the ability to set and adjust its own legal and regulatory frameworks.
Far from staying fully aligned with EU laws and regulation, MPs and Whitehall departments should be undertaking a forensic review of what works, what doesnt and what can be improved.