The UK government is set to abandon its controversial plan to review or scrap all EU-era law by the end of 2023, in a move which has sparked fury among Tory Eurosceptics.

Kemi Badenoch, business secretary, told Tory Brexiters this week that the majority of almost 4,000 pieces of retained EU law would remain on the statute book, with perhaps 800 being removed by the end of the year.

Badenoch’s allies did not deny on Thursday that the government was preparing to ditch a December 31 2023 “sunset clause” under which EU laws would automatically expire if they had not been revised or retained.

The year-end deadline has alarmed business groups and trade unions, who have warned it could lead to huge uncertainty and the possible loss of key protections.

In angry exchanges on Monday, Badenoch told Tory MPs that plans to improve old EU laws could not be rushed.

The new approach will be welcomed by business and civil servants, who have been given the huge task of overhauling the statute book, and will be seen as another sign of Sunak’s practical approach to EU issues.

“We want to streamline regulation, but we are not getting rid of stuff for its own sake,” said one ally of Badenoch. “We want to do it properly. It has to be done line by line. These things need proper thought and consideration, not blanket scrapping.”

One Tory MP at the meeting, first revealed by the Daily Telegraph, told the FT: “We were dismayed by what she said. She came across as extremely weak.”

Badenoch meanwhile challenged the Tory Eurosceptics to say exactly which laws they would scrap by the end of 2023. “They said product safety standards and the emissions trading scheme,” said one government insider.

Tory Eurosceptics told the FT that Badenoch had “turned on its head” the principle of the Retained EU Law bill, which had been expected to receive a pummelling when peers examine it in the House of Lords next month.

A government source said the bill, first brought forward by former minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, would still end the supremacy of EU law in the UK, but that Badenoch was taking a practical approach.

They said the minister was preparing concessions because of the likely Lords opposition. “If Brexiteers want delivery, they should get behind what Kemi is doing,” said one.

The news came as 25 leading British safety bodies warned that proceeding with the bill as planned would inflict a serious blow to workplace standards.

In a letter to Badenoch, they urged ministers to “rethink” the bill. With EU-era law underpinning many key parts of UK workplace legislation, the group including the TUC, the trade union umbrella body, the British Safety Council and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said the government’s timetable created dangerous uncertainty.

“With no indication from ministers about which parts of the current regime will be retained, reformed or allowed to lapse, there is huge uncertainty about which rules will be in place less than 10 months from now,” they wrote in a letter seen by the FT.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said the legislation was “reckless” and could be a disaster for workers’ safety. “Ministers must step back from the brink and ditch this bill before it’s too late,” he added.

Responding to the letter, the Department for Business and Trade said the government had “no intention” of abandoning the UK’s “strong record” on workers’ rights, with the UK having some of the highest standards in the world.

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