The UK Government released a White Paper on 30th March entitled “Legislating for the United Kingdom’s Withdrawal from the European Union”.

The text of the White Paper can be found here.

The Paper explains the Government’s objectives in creating a Great Repeal Bill, which is intended to end the supremacy of European Union (EU) law in the UK. The aims of the Bill are as follows:-

  • To repeal the European Communities Act 1972. The 1972 Act legislated for the accession of the UK to the then European Communities and for the incorporation of EU law into the domestic law of the UK.
  • To translate all EU law into UK statute, meaning that laws passed in the five decades of UK membership of the EU will continue to apply after Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty was invoked on 29th March and beyond ‘Brexit’.
  • To allow secondary legislation to make necessary changes to certain EU laws being translated into UK statute where references in those laws are to EU institutions or EU law, which will no longer apply after Brexit.

Once enacted, the Great Repeal Bill will allow the UK Parliament to amend, repeal and improve the EU laws which have been translated into UK statute as it thinks fit.

The size of the task should not be underestimated. There are at least 185 UK Parliamentary Acts currently in force and which include elements of EU law, and many other pieces of legislation. Indeed, the House of Lords Constitution Committee in a report on the Great Repeal Bill published on 7th March, recommended that enhanced scrutiny processes should be created for any secondary legislation laid under the Great Repeal Bill, so that Parliament is allowed to give these matters proper consideration, rather than simply being limited to approving or rejecting them.

It should be pointed out that until the UK leaves the EU, EU law will continue to apply. Only when the UK has left will the Great Repeal Bill become an Act and have legal force.