The UK has taken another step towards leaving the EU with the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill receiving its First Reading in Parliament.

The Bill will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act (ECA), which saw Britain become a member of the EU, and which also meant that European law took precedence over domestic legislation.

Here, we take a look at what’s happened since Article 50 was triggered, what it all means in the context of the law, and what we can expect to take place over the next 18 months.

What is the current position?

There are two main types of EU law – Regulations, which automatically apply to all EU member states, and Directives. Directives set out an aim for a member state to achieve and they have to be implemented by national law, which the UK has traditionally done through Statutory Instruments (a secondary form of legislation.)

The total body of European law introduced in previous decades has touched upon a vast number of topics, from workers’ rights, the environment right through to trade.

What are the practical effects of the Bill?

To call the legislation the ‘Repeal Bill’ is not entirely accurate, as the only thing being repealed is the ECA, though we will also no longer be bound by the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. (Interestingly, decisions of the Court will have the same status as our Supreme Court after we leave, which means that they can still be followed. Any decisions made by the ECJ pre-exit will still need to be adhered to.)

We will see all existing EU legislation being copied across into domestic law. This should result in a smooth transition, minimising any disruptive effects. The Government will then look at each of the EU laws we have preserved to see if they require changing, improving, or if they should be scrapped altogether. They can do this as a result of the Repeal Bill which is an unprecedented, wide-ranging power.

Which laws will be affected?

The impact will vary largely by sector. Areas such as Wills and Probate, Property and Family are unlikely to be directly impacted by Brexit.

Areas of the law which will be most affected include:

  • Finance
  • Intellectual property
  • Competition
  • Data Protection
  • Immigration
  • Environment
  • Business Crime
  • Public Law

What about the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)?

The ECHR is completely separate from the European Union itself. The Government has so far given no indication that it plans to withdraw from the ECHR.

What is the likely timetable?

Late 2017 – The Repeal Bill goes through stages of parliamentary scrutiny.

Early 2018 – The Repeal Bill is likely to get Royal Assent.

September 2018 – EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is aiming to finalise Brexit terms by this point.

Late 2018/Early 2019 – Both UK Houses of Parliament, the European Council and Parliament will vote on any proposed deal.

March 2019 – Two year negotiating window closes, and the UK leaves the EU.

Whatever happens during the next 18 months and beyond, our experts can provide advice and guidance for you or your business. If you have any questions, please call 0113 284 5000 today.

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