The debate around the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
12 September 2017
Client Alert | EU | Brexit
The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (the Bill) is presently being debated in the House of Commons, and is the subject of great controversy. The Bill was first mooted in the Prime Minister's speech to the Conservative Party Conference in October last year, when it was described as the "Great Repeal Bill", a title designed to stir memories of the Great Reform Act of 1832, a landmark of British political history.
The Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 13 July 2017. It has 4 main functions:
it repeals the European Communities Act of 1972 (ECA) with effect from the day the UK leaves the EU;
it converts EU law as it stands at the moment of exit into domestic law before the UK leaves the EU;
it creates power to make secondary legislation, including temporary powers to enable corrections to be made to the laws that would otherwise no longer operate appropriately once the UK has left the EU and to implement a withdrawal agreement; and
it maintains the current scope of devolved decision making powers in areas currently governed by EU law.
Whilst it might seem counterintuitive to mark the UK's exit from the EU by importing the whole of EU law (much of it greatly disliked) into UK domestic law - which is presumably why the name "Great Repeal Bill" was quietly dropped - it is widely acknowledged that there was no real workable alternative; there is simply not enough time to review and amend appropriately every piece of EU legislation before the UK's scheduled departure date (29 March 2019). The Government is seeking wide powers to make changes to the legislation incorporated into UK law by means of secondary legislation, thus avoiding the scrutiny of the full Houses of Parliament, and this is proving controversial.