What is the Great Repeal Bill? The Brexit law to end all EU laws (that we don't like)

The historic proposal aims to end the European Union's legal supremacy in the UK 

Alexandra Sims
Monday 03 October 2016 21:32 BST
British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech about Brexit on the first day of the Conservative Party Conference 2016
British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech about Brexit on the first day of the Conservative Party Conference 2016 (Getty)

What is the Great Repeal Bill?

The historic proposal aims to end the European Union's legal supremacy in the UK by converting all EU requirements into British law as soon as Britain exits the bloc.

The Great Repeal Bill will instantly annul the 1972 European Communities Act (ECA), which gives EU law instant effect in the UK, and give Parliament the power to absorb parts of EU legislation into UK law and scrap elements it does not want to keep.

It will include powers to change laws using secondary legislation as negotiations over the UK’s future relationship with its partners continue. Major amendments or new laws may be put forward in separate bills.

"It’s very simple. At the moment we leave, Britain must be back in control. And that means EU law must cease to apply," said Brexit Secretary David Davis. "EU law will be transposed into domestic law, wherever practical, on exit day. It will be for elected politicians here to make the changes to reflect the outcome of our negotiation and our exit."

The process will be separate from Article 50 negotiations, which will activate the formal mechanism to leave the EU. The legislation will only be prepared by Whitehall and will be debated by MPs and peers.

When will it happen?

The legislation will be introduced in the next parliamentary session beginning with Queen’s speech next May.

It will pre-empt the two year process of leaving the EU, which will begin when the Government triggers Article 50 - a process Theresa May says will begin in early 2017.

It will pass through Parliament at the same time as negotiations take place in Brussels and it will activate the end of the authority of the ECA in the UK on day one of Brexit.

What is 1972 European Communities Act?

The UK Parliament passed the European Communities Act in 1972 which gave instant effect to EU law.

This means if there is a clash between an act of UK Parliament and EU Law, EU law will always suceed.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) interprets EU law with judgments that were binding on all member states.

What will the Bill mean?

The legislation will end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK.

As EU laws are debated there is likely to be a large number of requests for changes from MPs, peers and third parties, however it is not yet clear how negotiations will play out.

Concerns have been raised as to whether changes to EU law could put workers’ rights and environmental standards, which had protections under EU law, at risk. However, Mr Davis has stressed this is not the aim, saying: "To those who are trying to frighten British workers, saying, ‘When we leave, employment rights will be eroded,’ I say firmly and unequivocally, ‘no they won’t’.”

Could it be blocked?

Scotland's Brexit minister has suggested Holyrood could vote against the bill.

Mike Russell said legislation to transpose all EU law applying to the UK into domestic law would require the consent of the Scottish Parliament, where the majority of MSPs are against it.

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Mr Russell said: "A piece of legislation such as Theresa May is now promising, this Great Repeal Act, will require the approval of the Scottish Parliament. A legislative consent motion will be required.

"The Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament, has a formal role there. We need to make sure that we are in there discussing these matters.

"Presently there is a majority against that repeal Bill, that is absolutely obvious."

While the bill will most likely be passed through the conservative majority House of Commons, it may face tougher opposition at the House of Lords.

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