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Legislating for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU

Source: HM Revenue & Customs | | 05/04/2017

Following the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, giving notice under Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union of the UK’s intention to leave the EU, the government has published a White Paper on “Legislating for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union”. This confirms that a new Great Repeal Bill will:

  • repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and return power to UK institutions
  • convert EU law as it stands at the moment of exit into UK law – it will then be up to the UK Parliament (and, where appropriate, the devolved legislatures) to amend, repeal or improve any piece of EU law, once it has been brought into UK law, at the appropriate time once we have left the EU
  • create powers to make secondary legislation – this will enable corrections to be made to the laws which would otherwise no longer operate appropriately once we have left the EU, so that our legal system continues to function correctly outside the EU, and it will also enable domestic law once we have left the EU to reflect the content of any withdrawal agreement under Article 50.

On the second point, the Great Repeal Bill will ensure that, wherever possible, the same rules and laws apply on the day after we leave the EU as before. This means that the Bill will convert directly applicable EU law (i.e. EU regulations) into UK law and will preserve all the laws we have made in the UK to implement our EU obligations, e.g. under EU directives. It will also ensure that the rights in the EU treaties that can be relied on directly in court by an individual will continue to be available in UK law. Finally, the Bill will provide that historic case-law from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) as it exists on the day we leave the EU will be given the same binding status as Supreme Court decisions. For example, CJEU case-law governs the calculation of holiday pay for UK workers and a failure to carry across that case-law would be to create uncertainty for both workers and employers. However, the Bill will bring an end to the jurisdiction of the CJEU in the UK. So, once we have left the EU, the Bill will not provide any future role for the CJEU in the interpretation of our law and it will not require the UK courts to consider the CJEU’s new case-law. After we have left the EU, Parliament will be free to change the law, and therefore overturn any of the historic CJEU case-law, where it decides it’s right to do so.


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