Following recent speeches confirming that “brexit means brexit” and that Article 50 will be triggered by the end of March 2017, David Davis (Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union) told the House of Commons on Monday that a new bill – the Great Repeal Bill – will be put before the House “in the next Parliamentary session”. The Bill – if passed – will take effect on the day that we leave the EU and will ensure that existing EU laws applicable here remain in force, but as purely domestic legislation. It will also repeal the force of the European Communities Act, which placed EU law above domestic law in some situations and also gave legal precedence to the rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union. Mr Davis also made it clear that the devolved administrations will be fully involved in the formation of the Bill (an important factor given the devolved implementation of many EU Directives across the UK) and, indeed, in the greater negotiations to effect an orderly Brexit.
This is very welcome news. It provides certainty for everyone affected by EU laws – whether as legal experts, regulators or regulatees – that the current status will be maintained. It was a concern for many that “black holes” would appear in the laws as written once we left – and that there are far too many of these for them all to be considered during the negotiation period. It remains unclear how ‘direct effect’ EU Regulations will be dealt with – for example; the Great Repeal Bill will, it appears, preserve the REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008 (as amended) but what will these Regulations be enforcing post Brexi? Such questions remain to be answered, since the exact wording of the Bill remains to be seen, but Mr Davis’ announcement provides some reassurances that, for the time being, the statute books will remain effective and complete. At the very least, there will be time for reflection and consideration in relation to which laws need amending (or even repealing).