The government has published the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19 and it has had its first reading in the House of Commons. The second reading is scheduled for 9 September 2017, following which it will enter Committee Stage for further debate. Explanatory Notes to the Bill have also been published.
The Bill performs four main functions. It:
- repeals the European Communities Act 1972 on the day the UK leaves the European Union;
- ends the supremacy of EU law in UK law and converts EU law as it stands at the moment of exit into domestic law;
- creates powers to make secondary legislation, including temporary powers to enable corrections to be made to the laws that would otherwise no longer operate appropriately once the UK has left the EU and powers to give effect to withdrawal negotiations; and
- maintains the current scope of devolved decision-making powers in areas currently governed by EU law.
In terms of converting EU law into domestic law, the Bill does this by retaining EU-derived domestic legislation, EU legislation and treaties in UK law as they stand at the moment of exit, and also by retaining the binding nature of decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that apply immediately before exit day. Decisions of the CJEU are to be given the same precedent status as decisions of the Supreme Court.
The government has also published a series of factsheets on the effects of the Bill, including a factsheet specifically on workers’ rights following Brexit. This confirms the government’s commitment to continue to protect, and enhance, workers’ employment and equality rights after the UK leaves the EU. Workers’ rights that are enjoyed under EU law will continue to be available in UK law after exit day. This includes rights derived from EU law, such as the Working Time Directive and the Agency Workers’ Directive. Where protections are provided by the EU treaties, they will also be converted by the Bill and, where rights have been extended by CJEU judgments, those rights will continue to be protected in the UK after exit day. Any future changes to domestic employment legislation after Brexit will then be subject to the appropriate parliamentary scrutiny.