The European Communities Act 1972 (ECA) accepted the supremacy of EU law in the UK. The principle of supremacy says that EU law prevails if it conflicts with national law.
The Great Repeal Bill is legislation which will be introduced in the UK to end the supremacy of EU law in the UK.
On the day that the UK officially leaves the EU the European Communities Act 1972 will be repealed and all EU laws currently in force will be converted into UK law.
A White Paper: Legislating for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union was presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, on 30 March 2017.
The paper outlines the approach the UK Government will take in order to replace EU laws by equivalent UK laws.
We have been clear that we want a smooth and orderly exit – and the Great Repeal Bill is integral to that approach. It will provide clarity and certainty for businesses, workers and consumers across the United Kingdom on the day we leave the EU.
An update on what’s been happening since my last article on 24 July 2016
In one of his first comments following the result of the EU Referendum, Jeremy Corbyn stated that:
“The British people have made their decision. We must respect that result and Article 50 has to be invoked now so that we negotiate an exit from European Union. Quite clearly negotiations must take place. There must be the best deal possible in order to ensure strong industries in Britain stay strong and strong industries that have big export markets protect retain those export markets. But we are in some very difficult areas.”
During the summer holiday period in 2016 there did not appear to be much happening.
Although a new leader was appointed by the Conservative Party in a relatively short timeframe, it took longer for the Labour Party to make a choice following the challenge to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
After a long process, which began shortly after the EU Referendum, Jeremy Corbyn retained the leadership of the Labour Party with a convincing majority when the result was announced on Sep 24.
Theresa May coined the phrase “Brexit means Brexit” in response to questions about what Brexit meant but with little extra definition.
The type of relationship that the UK has with the EU following Brexit has been under much discussion with speculation about a “Hard Brexit”, a “Soft Brexit” or whether to follow the relationship that other countries such as Norway and Switerland have with the EU.
It is not clear where the terms “Hard Brexit” and “Soft Brexit” originated. The terms are used in an attempt to describe the type of relationship with the EU that may result after negotiations are completed. “Hard” implying that the UK ends up trading with the EU under the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with no tariff free access to the EU Single Market, and has no obligations to the EU. “Soft”, on the other hand, implies that the UK retains access to the EU Single Market but in return accepts some form of restricted membership of the EU and includes following the 4 fredoms of the EU which are defined as the freedom of movement for goods, people, services and capital across national boundaries.
The UK is currently excluded from meetings with other EU countries when the topic relates to the UK leaving the EU.
Statements issued by EU leaders have also emphasised on numerous occasions that:
There will be no discussion on Brexit until Article 50 has been invoked.
The UK must honour the principle of free movement of people if it wants to retain access to the single market after it leaves the EU.
“One of the four freedoms enjoyed by EU citizens is the free movement of workers. This includes the rights of movement and residence for workers, the rights of entry and residence for family members, and the right to work in another Member State and be treated on an equal footing with nationals of that Member State. Restrictions apply in some countries for citizens of Member States that have recently acceded to the EU. The rules on access to social benefits are currently shaped primarily by the case law of the Court of Justice.”
The former French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier has been appointed by the European Commission to lead the negotiations on behalf of the EU.
At the beginning of October, during the Conservative Party conference, Theresa May announced that the UK would begin formal Brexit negotiations by the end of March 2017. She also promised to introduce the Great Repeal Bill to remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and enshrine all existing EU law into British law. The repeal of the 1972 act will not take effect until the UK leaves the EU under Article 50. The Government has indicated that these legal changes within the Bill would take effect on “Brexit Day”: the day the UK officially leaves the European Union (EU).
Theresa May’s speech can be seen at https://youtu.be/08JN73K1JDc
The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, has later emphasised the difference between the Article 50 process and the Great Repeal Bill:
The great repeal Bill is not what will take us out of the EU, but what will ensure the UK statute book is fit for purpose after we have left. It will put the elected politicians in this country fully in control of determining the laws that affect its people’s lives—something that does not apply today.
A Research Briefing Legislating for Brexit: the Great Repeal Bill was issued on 21 November 2016. A summary is available at