Business secretary Kemi Badenoch has accused Tory MPs who want a “bonfire” of all remaining EU law of being “arsonists”.
Badenoch angered many Brexiteer Tory MPs last month when she substantially watered down plans to scrap EU laws still in place by the end of 2023.
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill had initially proposed the axing of around 4,000 Brussels laws from the UK statute book.
Badenoch - who herself is a staunch Brexiteer - defended the move at a combative session of the Commons European scrutiny committee on Tuesday,
“My view is what we want to do is get rid of laws we don’t need,” she said.
“It is not the bonfire of regulations. We are not arsonists. I am certainly not an arsonist. I am a Conservative.
“What we wanted is reform and removal of things we did not need.”
She added: “What is the point of MPs voting through legislation which is not doing what we want it to do, just so we can say we passed this legislation?
“What the people of the country want is reform that makes their lives better not just saying we deleted things from the statute book.”
Incredible exchange at the European Scrutiny Committee.
Jones: I wanted a bonfire.
Badenoch: We're not arsonists. We're conservatives.
Jones: We voted for arson.
Badenoch: We'd end with nobody knowing the effect until after the 'sunset' clause.
Jones: That's what we wanted. ~AA pic.twitter.com/GYm6tlSTjV
— Best for Britain (@BestForBritain) June 6, 2023
But Conservative MP David Jones said a “bonfire of unnecessary regulations” was “precisely what the Commons voted for”.
He accused Badenoch of being “disrespectful” by amending the Bill after MPs had already agreed to the earlier broader version and for not giving any warning.
But Badenoch hit back, questioning how the talks she held with Jones to explain the change were leaked.
“We had private meetings where we discussed this extensively because I knew you had concerns,” she said.
“It’s public knowledge we had private and confidential meetings because I was reading the contents in the Daily Telegraph.”
Rees-Mogg, who is now a backbencher, has accused Rishi Sunak and Badenoch of a “lack of decisiveness, of drive, of backbone” over the Bill.