LONDON (Reuters) - Britain published on Thursday the key piece of legislation that will enact its exit from the European Union, detailing how the government will transpose EU law into British law and end the supremacy of the European Court of Justice.
The legislation was presented to parliament without discussion in the first stage of what is expected to be a long and divisive debate about the nature of Britain’s EU exit, during which the contents of the bill can be amended.
The passage of the bill will test Prime Minister Theresa May’s ability to lead the country.
It must be agreed by both houses of parliament before it can come into effect. The first debate is not expected to start until at least September.
The bill can be viewed here:
Below is a summary of what the bill, formally known as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, proposes:
The bill states this will happen on the day that Britain leaves the EU. It does not specify a date.
Expected to be the most straightforward part of the legislation, the Brexit department said this would “remove supremacy of EU law and return control to the UK”.
It will stop new EU laws being automatically applicable to Britain and ensure subsequent British legislation trumps old EU laws.
The government’s aim is to maximise legal continuity as Britain leaves the EU, ensuring that wherever possible the same rules and laws apply on the day after Brexit as they did on the day before.
This is seen as a necessary step to allow businesses and courts to continue to function.
Some EU laws, known as regulations, are currently automatically applicable to Britain without having required domestic laws to be passed. Some other pieces of EU legislation work in the same way.
Therefore the bill states they will all need to be translated into domestic law so they still apply at the point at which Britain leaves the EU.
The interpretation of those laws, as defined in previous cases, will also be brought into British law to ensure the way the rules are applied in practice does not change.
There is a provision in the bill to allow the Supreme Court to depart from the EU case law in some instances.
Other EU laws, known as directives, are already incorporated into British law. The underlying directives, therefore, do not require transferral, Nor do obligations required by EU treaties which Britain has already incorporated into British law.
Some laws will cease to function correctly if they are copied across verbatim or left as they currently stand. This could be for a number of reasons. For example, if they refer to an EU regulator which no longer has jurisdiction in Britain.
To achieve the government’s aim of legal consistency, these laws will need to be amended to make them work properly.
The repeal bill sets out that these changes will be made through an existing parliamentary process known as ‘secondary legislation’.
Secondary legislation still requires parliamentary oversight, and ministers will not be given the power to unilaterally change laws. The government estimates that 800 to a 1,000 such changes will need to be made.
The bill states that these powers can only be used to correct deficiencies arising from Britain’s withdrawal for the EU. This means they cannot be used to enact changes in government policy.
Reporting by William James; editing by Ralph Boulton