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Clarity on Legislative Impact of BREXIT still awaited
The Prime Minister Theresa May announced at the Conservative Party conference on 2 October 2016 that Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union will be triggered before the end of March 2017, and that the next Queen’s Speech will include a Great Repeal Bill, to repeal the European Communities Act 1972.
Assuming that Article 50 is triggered as planned under Royal prerogative, then the timing should be as follows:
- By the end of March 2017: Article 50 to be invoked and the two-year formal negotiations for withdrawal from the EU to commence.
- Next Queen’s Speech (April or May 2017): the Great Repeal Bill is introduced.
- First quarter 2019: the UK formally leaves the EU and the Great Repeal Bill takes effect, before the next European Parliament elections.
While the Prime Minister’s speech marks clear intent on timing on the government’s part, it does not provide any substantive detail relating to the negotiations for withdrawal or for the complex process of unpicking EU legislation from the UK statute book, and whether transitional provisions will be put in place.
The European Communities Act 1972 (ECA 1972) enshrines the supremacy of EU law in national law, which would come to an end in terms of domestic law at the point of adoption of the Great Repeal Bill. At this point, both Houses of Parliament will need to thoroughly scrutinise all EU law-derived provisions to establish what legislation will be retained, amended or repealed. This is unlikely to be a swift or simple process. Clarity will also be required on the applicability of decisions of the European Court of Justice, currently a significant point of reference and influence, both during the negotiation period and post-BREXIT.
One exception to this is in relation to existing workers’ rights, which the Prime Minister has pledged to retain during her premiership.