The Road to Brexit: Reactions to the Great Repeal Bill Draft - RightsInfo

The Road to Brexit: Reactions to the Great Repeal Bill Draft

The road to Brexit has already been a fairly long journey – and we haven’t even reached the first toilet break yet.

After the UK voted to leave the European Union last June, there’s been a lot of debate about exactly how the process will work, as well as the effect it will have on our rights. However, we’re only just getting a glimpse of the road ahead.

The Journey Finally Begins

Currently our laws come from a mixture of places – some are made here in the Houses of Commons and Houses of Parliament, but others come from various EU bodies. Now the Government has officially started the Brexit process by triggering Article 50, it’s got to work out how to untangle it all, without leaving important gaps in the law.

That’s where The Great Repeal Bill comes in. The White Paper, which is basically a set of proposals, has been released by the Government to lay out the plan for Brexit. It’s set to be one of the biggest constitutional challenges the country has ever had to grapple with, so will undoubtably be surrounded by debate.

A Road Map For Brexit


In the simplest possible terms the Great Repeal Bill exists to repeal the European Communities Act, which is the legislation that says EU law is Supreme to the UK’s. It also means Britain no longer falls under the European Court of Justice, the body which ensures that EU law is implemented in the same way in all member states.

As well as this, the bill will transfer all EU legislation into UK law. Brexit Secretary David Davis says this is necessary to give certainty to businesses and individuals that their “rights and obligations will not be subject to sudden change”.

Parliament will be able to “amend, repeal and improve” laws as necessary after Brexit has officially happened – planned for 2019.

The Finer Details

We’ve always known the broad purpose of what the bill will be, but now the White Paper has been released we have some finer details on what the Brexit process will look like. As expected with such a contentious topic, there’s been a lot of debate about its contents.

Some commentators have alluded to the sheer amount of EU law which will have to be converted – and the lack of reliable estimates on just how much of our law comes from the Union. Some put the number as low as 13 per cent of our legislation – others as high at 60. Either way, that’s a lot of laws to convert.

This is the reason the Government wants to use secondary legislation to make a lot of changes needed. Secondary legislation doesn’t have to be debated or scrutinised in the same way as primary legislation, but it is much faster. Government sources previously said this was essential or they “would be converting EU law into British law forever otherwise.”

The White Paper itself says there’s a “balance that has to be struck” between scrutiny and speed due to the “scale of the changes”, however some opponents have argued this means the Government could have too much power.

And, what about our human rights?

First up, leaving the EU doesn’t automatically mean opting out of the European Convention on Human Rights. This is a separate treaty the UK signed to protect our basic human rights, such as the right to free speech and family life.

There have, however, been warning signs this could change. Previously, the Government advocated for repealing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a new British Bill of Rights. Justice Secretary Liz Truss confirmed that these plans are on hold, but some think the wording of the new White Paper doesn’t stress their commitment to the Act enough.

There have been also fears more generally that the chance to “repeal, amend and improve” laws could lead to rights currently protected by the EU – such as maternity leave and equal pay – being watered down.

It’s still early days for the Great Repeal Bill though, as it will have to debated by both MPs and MSPs before it can finally pass into law.

Want to know more about how Brexit could affect our human rights?

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About the Author

Jem Collins

Strategic Impact Director
Jem is the Strategic Impact Director for RightsInfo, working on increasing our reach across the UK and measuring our impact. Previously she was the News and Social Media Editor. She is also passionate about helping young people into the media and runs Journo Resources, a start-up which helps young people into the media, as well as serving as a trustee of the Student Publication Association. She is also one of the co-founders of The Second Source, a group to help end harassment in the media. Email Jem View all posts by Jem Collins.
The Road to Brexit: Reactions to the Great Repeal Bill Draft
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