6 October 2016

The Prime Minister has revealed plans to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act (ECA) and convert existing EU legislation into domestic law.

Provisions will be introduced in what she described as a Great Repeal Bill, which is to be in place by the time the UK leaves the Union and will reassure businesses that there will be no legal uncertainty in the immediate aftermath of Brexit.

David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, said: “It’s very simple. At the moment we leave, Britain must be back in control. And that means EU law must cease to apply.”

The ECA gives direct effect to EU law in the UK. Its repeal will also end the jurisdiction of the EU’s Court of Justice (CJEU) in this country.

In the interests of continuity, existing EU law will be transposed into domestic law wherever practical on exit day, Mr Davis explained. Once ECA is repealed, Parliament will have the opportunity to amend, repeal or improve any of the affected laws after appropriate scrutiny and debate.

With Theresa May having stated that the Government will trigger Article 50 — and so start formal exit negotiations — by the end of March 2017, he also confirmed that the UK will follow the process to leave the EU as set out in that Article of the EU Treaty.

This means that the UK will have a period of two years to negotiate a deal with the EU (with the possibility of an extension, but only if the other 27 EU Member States agree).

Responding to the news, Dr Adam Marshall of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said that, for most businesses, getting Brexit right is far more important than doing it quickly and the Government must demonstrate that it has a clear and coherent strategy to defend the UK’s economic and business interests in the negotiations that lie ahead.