Minister branded ‘Lord Gobbledy of Gook’ in Brexit bonfire row

A Government minister was today accused of being “Lord Gobbledy of Gook” over plans for a Brexit bonfire of EU laws. The charge was levelled by Lord Kerr of Kinlochard at Tory frontbencher Lord Callanan over a letter he had sent to peers aimed at clarifying points about the Retained EU Law Bill.

The Bill paves the way for more than 4,000 EU-derived laws still on the UK statute book to be scrapped by the end of the year.

It has already cleared the Commons but has come up against major opposition in the Lords.

Speaking on the fourth day of detailed scrutiny of the Bill in the upper chamber, Lord Kerr referred to correspondence he and other peers had received “from Lord Gobbledy of Gook – sorry, Lord Callanan”.

The independent crossbencher said: “I have now asked four times what the procedure is for getting rid of pieces of EU law – our law – that are to be disapplied and abolished altogether.

“What we get in reply are examples – we hear about olives, lemons, and navigation in the Skagerrak. I agree with that.

“No doubt there are several pieces of law that have never been relevant and have no relevance now, and that none of us will miss much.

“However, there could be others that a secretary of state might wish to abolish but some of us might take a different view on.”

Lord Kerr cited a 1974 judgment by the late Lord Denning in which he referred to law from Brussels flowing “into the estuaries and up the rivers”.

He said: “How do you desalinate the common law of England? It grows organically. Which bits do you prune? How do you know which nutrients were of European origin and which were of domestic origin? How do you go about this task?

“It seems that we are not going to be allowed any role in this, because it is going to be done by a minister with the stroke of a pen. Surely that cannot be right.”

Responding to Lord Kerr’s criticism of his letter, Government minister Lord Callanan said: “I am sorry that he thinks that it is gobbledygook, but that is lawyers for you.”

On retained EU laws, he said it was “constitutionally novel and inappropriate to leave them on the statute book indefinitely”.

He added: “That there are still circumstances where retained EU law takes precedence over UK law is not consistent with our status as an independent nation now.

“The principle of EU supremacy must be ended as soon as it can be.”

Labour peer Lord Collins of Highbury said: “Nobody disputes that there may be EU rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures that we could do better without. There is no doubt about that, but let us have a proper procedure for determining it.”

Liberal Democrat former MEP Baroness Ludford said: “Parliament is being sidelined in this Bill.”

The draft legislation has received a furious reception in the Lords with calls for it to be ditched.

Opponents have branded it a “powergrab” by the Government and said it creates uncertainty and threatens legal rights and protections.

Critics want Parliament to have the final say on which laws to scrap, keep or change.

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