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The Great Repeal Bill White Paper Summary

After Theresa May formally triggered Article 50, the Government brought forward its Great Repeal Bill White Paper (entitled ‘Legislating for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union’) – the draft legislation through which the UK will untangle itself from EU law.

Making a statement to the House as the White Paper was unveiled, Brexit Secretary, David Davis, said that the Great Repeal Bill will provide the clarity that business seek and will ensure that, as the UK exits, the same standards and rules that the EU currently has previously legislated member states, will be copied across to UK law.

David also said that the Bill will provide Parliament with the oversight it has calling for for some time, as it will be given the chance to adapt and amend the final legislation.

Davis was clear that it was not enough to simply repeal EU legislation out of UK law and that it was important to copy across existing European legislation onto UK statue books. This, he said, would prevent legislative holes appearing in the UK. Any aspects of transposed EU law that the UK did not like, can be amended through secondary legislation.

Davis also said that a balance must be found between the need for the right kevel of scrutiny and the need for swiftness, given the finite time that exists before the UK formally leaves the EU in March 2019. The White Paper’s purpose therefore, Davis said, was to act as the beginning of a discussion between Government and Parliament as to the best way to achieve this balance.

Davis also concentrated heavily on the role of the devolved administrations during the process. He said that the UK Government would allow devolved administration’s to tweak and amend EU law, once it had been transposed into the UK statute books, providing it fits with the powers it has been given. He also spoke of the need for common UK frameworks to be established between the UK’s regions to strengthen and improve economic relations within the UK.

The Bill which will be formally announced in the Queen’s Speech in May, is not expected to be given Royal Assent until towards the end of 2018, given the scrutiny that Parliament is expected to give it. It is expected to be vast in its scale and purpose, given the sheer amount of EU law that current impacts the UK. It will also take up a significant amount of parliamentary time up, meaning that other Government priorities could be side lined to make room for the bill.

Before then, the Government will consult on the White Paper before it is laid before Parliament. Comments on the White Paper can be sent to


Chapter 1: Delivering the Referendum Result

Chapter 1 outlines that the Great Repeal Bill will put the UK in control of its laws; maximise certainty for businesses, workers, investors and consumers across the whole of the UK; and ensure accountability of the powers contained in the Bill. To achieve this, the Great Repeal Bill will do three things:

  • Repeal the European Communities Act (ECA) and return power to UK institutions
  • Subject to the detail of the proposals set out in the White Paper, the Bill will convert EU law, as it stands at the moment of exit, into UK law before we leave the EU. The Government said that this allows businesses to continue operating knowing the rules have not changed significantly overnight, and provides fairness to individuals, whose rights and obligations will not be subject to sudden change. It also ensures, the Government says, that it will be up to the UK Parliament (and, where appropriate, the devolved legislatures) to amend, repeal or improve any piece of EU law (once it has been brought into UK law) at the appropriate time once the UK has left the EU.
  • Finally, the Bill will create powers to make secondary legislation. This will enable corrections to be made to the laws that would otherwise no longer operate appropriately once we have left the EU, so that the UK’s legal system continues to function correctly outside the EU, and will also enable domestic law, once we have left the EU, to reflect the content of any withdrawal agreement under Article 50.

Chapter 2: Approach to repealing

This Chapter states that the Bill will ensure that, wherever possible, the same rules and laws apply on the day after we leave the EU as before. The Great Repeal Bill will end the general supremacy of EU law.

This means that:

  • The Bill will convert directly-applicable EU law (EU regulations) into UK law
  • It will preserve all the laws that the UK Government has made in the UK
  • The rights in the EU treaties that can be relied on directly in court by an individual will continue to be available

If, after exit, a conflict arises between two pre-exit laws, one of which is an EU-derived law and the other not, then the EU-derived law will continue to take precedence over the other pre-exit law.

Chapter 3: Delegated Powers in the Great Repeal Bill

This Chapter states that the Great Repeal Bill will provide power to correct the statute book, where necessary, to rectify problems occurring as a consequence of leaving the EU. This will be done using secondary legislation, and will help make sure the Government has put in place the necessary corrections before the UK exits the EU.

The White Paper states that the Government is mindful of the need to ensure that the right balance is struck between the need for scrutiny and the need for swiftness. Therefore the Government said that it has ensured that this White Paper is the beginning of a discussion between Government and Parliament as to the most pragmatic and effective approach to take to achieve this balance.

Chapter 4: Interaction with the devolution settlements

The Government states here that areas where the devolved administrations and legislatures have delegated powers, such as in agriculture, environment and some transport issues, the devolved administrations and legislatures are responsible for implementing the common policy frameworks set by the EU. The Government therefore proposes that the Bill also gives the devolved ministers powers to amend devolved legislation to correct law that will no longer operate appropriately, in line with the power the Government propose should be held by UK ministers.

Chapter 5: Crown Dependencies and Overseas territories:

Chapter 5 of the White Paper concerns the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories. While no new information or guidance is outlined the chapter provides an overview of the different relationships that each of the different CDs and OTs have in relation to the EU

It notes that Crown Dependencies, that: “As a general rule, the Crown Dependencies are not bound by EU law, but they are part of the customs territory of the EU.”

The White Paper also provides an assurance of continuing cooperation and consultation as the process unfolds, stating that it is committed to engaging with the Crown Dependencies, Gibraltar and the other Overseas Territories as the UK leave the EU.

The White Paper, adds: “We will continue to involve them fully in our work, respect their interests and engage with them as we enter negotiations, and strengthen the bonds between us as we forge a new relationship with the EU and look outward into the world. This includes technical engagement on any implications of the Great Repeal Bill for their jurisdictions.”

Timeline of Brexit