While the United Kingdom’s Brexit negotiations with the EU seem to be going slowly, the legislative action to implement the changes required in UK law is well underway.
The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was introduced into the House of Commons on 13 July 2017 with its second reading on 7 September 2017.
This Bill provides that EU law no longer applies as such in the UK: but it then copies all existing EU law that applies in the UK into UK law (same law, different basis of application). It repeals the European Communities Act 1972 which took the UK into the European Community (as it was called then) and gave European Union law precedence over domestic UK law.
There will need to be a large number of amendments to the law as copied into UK law to make it work in the new situation – for example, there are many places where the existing laws make reference to EU institutions which will no longer be relevant. The Government is proposing to make those changes by a process that is not subject to full Parliamentary scrutiny – and this is what is causing the current controversy around the Bill.
The Government’s proposal is that those executive powers will be used to “amend, repeal and improve” the law as copied over; opinions have been expressed that this gives the Government too much power to make changes to the law without the scrutiny of Parliament.
The Bill represents a major event in UK legislative history and we will watch its progress with interest.