The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the new name for the Great Repeal Bill, was introduced to Parliament on Thursday 13 July 2017.
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 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.
Statutory instruments made under the powers in the Bill will make these corrections. 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.
UK consumer protections that are based on EU law will be preserved wherever practical.
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 allows corrections to be made is time limited and enacted to ensure a working statute book.
Ian Youngman, author of Brexit and Insurance says, "All this makes the huge assumption that those pesky politicians in Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, plus Labour plus hard line or soft line Conservatives all allow it an easy passage- not a chance of that as we will have a year of political turbulence. The idea in some media that making objections is almost treason does not deserve house room. Watch out folks as we are in for a bumpy ride."