News story

Government announces end of European Communities Act

The UK will take back control of its laws and provide the maximum possible certainty for workers and businesses on leaving the EU.

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Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis has announced today that the Government plans to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act (ECA). The Act gives direct effect to all EU law and the introduction of a new Bill to repeal it will mean the Act ceases to apply from the day of exit.

At the same time the new Bill will convert existing EU law into domestic law, while allowing Parliament to amend, repeal or improve any law after appropriate scrutiny and debate.

Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis said:

We will follow the process to leave the EU which is set out in Article 50.

The Prime Minister has been clear that she won’t start the formal negotiations about our exit before the end of the year.

As we prepare for those negotiations in Europe, we also need to prepare for the impact of Brexit on domestic law.

It’s very simple. At the moment we leave, Britain must be back in control. And that means EU law must cease to apply.

To ensure continuity, we will take a simple approach. 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.

That is what people voted for: power and authority residing once again with the sovereign institutions of our own country.

Mr Davis also dismissed any suggestion that the Government intends to use Brexit to roll back workers’ rights - pointing out that in many areas, including annual and parental leave, UK law goes further than minimum standards offered under EU law.

He added:

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”.

The European Communities Act has meant that if there is a clash between an act of the British Parliament and EU law, EU law prevails. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has interpreted EU law and delivered judgments that were binding on the UK and other member states. The repeal Bill will end ECJ jurisdiction in the UK.

Mr Davis made clear that the move demonstrates the Government’s determination to deliver the will of the British people, expressed in the EU referendum result, to ensure that Britain makes its own decisions about how it wants the country to be run.

The Repeal Bill will include powers for ministers to make some changes by secondary legislation, giving the Government the flexibility to take account of the negotiations with the EU as they proceed.

It will also ensure that the Government can establish new domestic regimes in areas where regulation and licensing is currently done at an EU level, and amendments are required to ensure the law operates effectively at a domestic level. The ECA created a power which currently exists for Ministers to make secondary legislation to give effect to EU law.

Legislation resulting from the UK’s exit must work for the whole of the United Kingdom, so the Government will work closely with the devolved administrations to get the best possible deal for all parts of the United Kingdom as we leave the EU. They will have opportunities to have their say and we will look at any suggestions they put forward.

The Prime Minister has been clear that she intends to trigger Article 50, the formal process for starting a two-year negotiation over exit from the EU, by next March.

In order for the UK to withdraw in an orderly way, ECA repeal will ensure that legislation is passed in advance so that EU law ceases to apply and domestic law can take its place on the day of exit.

Published 2 October 2016