The Repeal Bill is the Bill that will allow the UK to leave the EU and it will ensure that European law will no longer apply in the UK. It has now been introduced to Parliament and it is called the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.
It will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act which took Britain into the EU and meant that European Law took precedence over laws passed in the UK Parliament. It also ends the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. All existing EU legislation will be copied across into domestic UK law to ensure the smooth transition on the day after Brexit.
One of the largest legislative projects ever
UK Parliament can then amend, repeal and improve the laws as necessary. The House of Commons library predicts that the Repeal Bill is likely to be one of the largest legislative projects ever undertaken in the UK and the government plans to create powers to correct the statute book where necessary, without full parliamentary scrutiny. There are believed to be 12,000 EU Regulations in force while Parliament has passed 7,900 statutory instruments implementing EU legislation and 186 Acts which incorporate a degree of EU influence. The total body of European law dating back to 1958 binds member states and in 2010 it was estimated to consist of about 80,000 items covering everything from workers’ rights to environment and trade.
The Bill was included in the Queen’s Speech in June and was introduced to Parliament on 13th July 2017. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has already identified a number of implications and opportunities in the context of this Bill and recommends that the government should ensure that all existing EU laws for protection in equality and human rights are incorporated into the UK law following Brexit.
The government indicated that the Bill will provide that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) case law in place at the time the UK exists the EU will be given the same binding or precedence status in our courts, as decisions of our own Supreme Court. This would mean that while treating the CJEU former decisions, as normally binding, the Supreme Court could depart from them when it appears right to do so. The government is also examining whether it might be desirable for any additional steps to be taken to give further clarity about the circumstances in which such a departure might occur.
The government has stated that the removal of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights does not affect the substantive rights from which individuals already benefit in the UK. However, some Charter rights, for example relating to children and older people have no equivalent protection in UK law at a constitutional level such as those protected in the Human Rights Act.
Many of the rights protected in the Charter are also found in the UN and other international treaties which the UK has ratified. However, the UK has not incorporated the UN rights treaties, so they do not have direct effect into domestic law. Therefore, the substantive rights which are currently protected by the Charter, says the Commission, should be fully protected in domestic law by incorporating equivalent UN treaty rights which the UK has ratified. As we know, EU case law has had an important impact and as the Bill did not provide any role for the CJEU interpretation of new law, the domestic route will not be required to consider future CJEU jurisprudence. We must make sure that the Bill does not prevent our courts from continuing to be able to take into account developments in the law both in the EU and in other parts of the world.