Information for businesses on the Bill to convert EU law to UK law.
The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the Repeal Bill, was introduced to Parliament on Thursday 13 July 2017. It represents a significant milestone in our country’s journey towards leaving the EU. It is designed to provide as much certainty and continuity as possible for businesses, workers and consumers, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations.
The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
The Bill will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and convert EU law (as it applies in the UK) into domestic law on the day we leave the EU. This means that, as far as possible, the same rules and laws will apply immediately before and immediately after our exit, ensuring a smooth transition.
The Bill will establish a stable legal framework for our withdrawal from the EU, and provide the basis for our future relationship with the EU. It will not make substantive changes to policy or establish new legal frameworks in the UK, beyond those which are necessary to ensure the law functions properly.
Despite the Bill’s conversion of EU law into UK law, many areas of law will not function effectively once we leave the EU, because, for example, they refer to EU institutions that would no longer be relevant in UK law. The Bill will therefore give the Government a power to correct the law in these circumstances.
These corrections will be made by statutory instruments made under the powers in the Bill. The power can only correct deficiencies that come out of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU: the Government cannot change existing laws merely because it disliked them before exit. Changes will need to pass through the appropriate parliamentary scrutiny.
To maximise certainty, the Bill will ensure that any question as to the meaning of EU-derived law will be determined in the UK courts, by reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJEU) case law as it exists on the day we leave the EU. The Bill will provide that historic CJEU case law be given the same binding, or precedent, status in our courts as decisions of our own Supreme Court or (in relation to criminal cases in Scotland) the High Court of Justiciary. It is very rare for the Supreme Court to depart from one of its own decisions and we would expect the Supreme Court to only rarely depart from CJEU case law.
The Bill delivers on our promise to end the supremacy of EU law in the UK. It is the only way for the UK to leave the EU while taking back control – so that our future laws will be made in London, Edinburgh, Belfast, and Cardiff. For more information, please see our Bill factsheets.
The UK has a long-standing record of ensuring that employment and equality rights are protected. The Bill will ensure that workers’ rights which derive from EU law will continue to be available in UK law.
This ensures that rights such as those in the Working Time Directive and the Equality Act 2010 will continue to apply after exit. This will give certainty and continuity to employees and employers alike, creating stability in which the UK can grow and thrive.
The Prime Minister has been clear that securing the future status of EU nationals currently living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU is a priority for agreement during negotiations, including how UK business will be able to employ EU nationals after exit.
The Government has already set out a fair and serious offer outlining how we intend to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU.
For more information, please see our factsheet on Workers’ Rights and Equalities.
As a result of the Bill, UK consumer protections that are based on EU law will be preserved wherever practical, using the preservation powers in the Bill. This means that, when buying from traders in the UK, you will be able to rely on the same rights you have now after we leave the EU.
Where rights derived from EU legislation have been clarified by the CJEU, the effect of those judgments will be preserved and they will be treated as equivalent to precedent established by the UK Supreme Court. This stability will give businesses and consumers clarity and confidence in their domestic rights and obligations. For more information, please read our Consumer Protection factsheet.
We remain committed to safeguarding and protecting the UK’s long history of environmental protection. The Bill will incorporate existing EU environmental law into UK law and, as such, is intended to give certainty and continuity to business and organisations. We will also uphold our obligations under international environmental treaties.
Any future changes to our legislation will be subject to the usual parliamentary scrutiny. We will work closely with communities, environmental organisations and other stakeholders to help build our future plans for environmental protection.
This will make sure we can continue create a healthy environment and strong economy. For more information, see our Environmental Protections factsheet.
What happens next?
The Bill’s passage through Parliament will run in parallel to the UK’s negotiations with the EU. The Bill will progress through the following parliamentary stages in order to become an Act of Parliament.
In the House of Commons - the first opportunity for MPs to debate the principles of the Bill takes place at the second reading stage. At the end of the debate, the Commons vote to decide whether the Bill should progress to the next stage.
This is followed by the committee stage - during this phase, the Bill is thoroughly examined to ensure each clause is agreed to, changed or removed from the Bill. Further amendments and votes may occur at report stage, usually swiftly followed by the Bill’s third reading, where the House votes to either approve or reject the final Bill.
In the House of Lords - The Bill is then passed to the House of Lords. Here it will follow a similar series of stages, at the end of which the Bill is returned back to the House of Commons to consider any amendments made by the Lords.
Royal Assent - Before receiving Royal Assent, both the House of Commons and the House of Lords must agree on a version of the Bill. Royal Assent is the Monarch’s formal agreement to make the Bill into an Act and thus become part of UK statute law.
The majority of changes made by the Bill (including, most notably, the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972) will come into effect on the day we leave the EU.
There will be a process using secondary legislation (Statutory Instruments) for making corrections to the laws that will not operate appropriately once we have left the EU, along with appropriate Parliamentary scrutiny. This will start shortly after the Bill receives Royal Assent.
The power to create SIs which allow corrections to be made is time limited and enacted to ensure a working statute book.
Separately, the Government will introduce further Bills over the next session of Parliament to ensure we are prepared for our withdrawal - on, for example, customs, immigration, trade, fisheries, agriculture, international sanctions and nuclear safeguards.
We will strive to give businesses affected, including small businesses, the time and support they need to prepare. And we will work with their business representative bodies, as well as individual businesses, to prepare them for any changes.
To receive regular updates regarding significant exit milestones, useful guidance for businesses and organisations, and details of DExEU Ministers’ recent engagement with stakeholders, please subscribe to our stakeholder e-bulletin.