Article 50 to be triggered by end of March 2017; upon Brexit, all existing EU law will be converted to UK law

Written on 3 Oct 2016

The United Kingdom Government will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by “no later than the end of March” 2017 and all existing European Union law will be “converted” to UK law on the date of Brexit, the Prime Minister announced yesterday.

The UK is therefore expected to leave the EU no later than the end of March 2019

This is the first time that the Government has given a firm indication of when it intends to trigger Article 50.  Once Article 50 is triggered, a two year
countdown for the UK to leave the EU is set in motion (although that two year period could be shorter, if negotiations are completed earlier, or longer, if
the two year period under Article 50 is extended by agreement of all EU Member States).

So we now have a date by which the Government expects that the UK will leave the EU, which is – following the logic of the Prime Minister’s statement today and the wording of Article 50 – no later than the end of March 2019.

All EU law to be “converted” to UK law as Government seeks to give business some certainty over Brexit

In early 2017, the Government will introduce into Parliament what it is terming a “Great Repeal Bill”.  This will repeal the European Communities
Act 1972 with effect from the date that the UK formally leaves the EU.

Under the Bill, all existing EU law – the “acquis” – will be converted into UK law on that date.  So the Bill might be better called the “Great Repeal and Transposition Bill”. The Government gave no further details as to how that transposition will be achieved; for example, it will be interesting to see how those parts of EU law that are not already implemented into UK law but which have direct effect are converted into UK law via the Bill.

The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over the interpretation of EU law in the UK will end upon the repeal of the European Communities Act.  Establishing that primacy of domestic law is a fundamental point for Brexiteers.

If the Government’s plan as announced yesterday is implemented, the result is some degree of certainty for businesses, in that:

  • it seems that Brexit is likely to take place in the spring of 2019 (though it could be earlier, or later);
  • all existing EU law at the date of Brexit will become UK law; and
  • after Brexit, it will open to the legislatures of the UK to repeal or amend EU law that has been converted into UK law.

In their own words

In the words of the press release issued by the Department for Exiting the European Union on 2 October 2016:

To ensure continuity, we will take a simple approach. EU law will be transposed into domestic law, wherever practical, on exit day.”

In her speech on the same day, the Prime Minister said that:

…by converting the acquis into British law, we will give businesses and workers maximum certainty as we leave the European Union. The same rules and laws will apply to them after Brexit as they did before. Any changes in the law will have to be subject to full and proper Parliamentary debate.”

The Prime Minister and the DExEU gave no further details around the Government’s position on remaining in or leaving the Single Market, though the tenor of their remarks suggests that the political imperative of controlling immigration will trump the desirability of being a member of the Single Market.  Nor was there any further discussion of the key issues of “passporting” for the financial services sector, or of the customs union.

Our dedicated Brexit page is here.

In this article, we have referred to “UK” law as shorthand for the laws of the constituent parts of Great Britain.