What does the Great Repeal Bill mean for Business?

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23 May 2017

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What is the Great Repeal Bill?

Coined as an “essential step” in leaving the EU by Prime Minister Theresa May, the Great Repeal Bill will fundamentally aim to repatriate European Union law into UK law and ensure that European law no longer applies in the UK. The bill will be introduced in Parliament as early as next year, and will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, a key piece of legislation which enables the government to easily transpose EU Directives and rulings of the European Court of Justice into domestic law. The 1972 European Communities Act originally took Britain into the EU, and granted EU law primacy over domestic legislation. It is also intended that the Great Repeal Bill will mark the end of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Some industry figures say that the bill will reclaim the UK’s legislative powers, with Theresa May commenting that the UK will thereafter “be an independent sovereign nation”. The whole process must be finalised by the day the UK leaves the EU, but with around 12,000 EU regulations in existence it promises to be extremely complex and challenging.

What does it mean for business and employers?

The Government have already given assurances that they wish to avoid any disruption to businesses and individuals as the UK leaves the EU, but with the House of Commons library warning that this will be one of the largest legislative processes ‘ever undertaken’, what can employers expect to come from the bill? Andrew Willis, Head of Litigation at Croner, comments: "It is intended that all existing EU legislation will be copied across into domestic law to ensure a seamless transition. This, in theory, will aid trade negotiations as the UK will already meet all of the EU’s product standards. However, this will involve a vast amount of complex technical work and is a huge legislative task. "The bill also includes powers to “correct” European law once it has been repatriated – while it's said that these powers are needed to allow necessary and minor alterations, some commentators have suggested they may also be used to make more substantive changes in areas like human rights, environmental standards, consumer rights and employment law."

Croner’s Employment Law Advice Regarding Brexit

Andrew Willis continues, “It is still very early days in terms of assessing the impact the Great Repeal Bill may have on employers. “However, a number of significant employment laws derive from EU legislation, including annual leave rights under the Working Time Regulations, the right to equal treatment under the Agency Workers Regulations, collective consultation obligations in large redundancy situations, discrimination compensation under the Equality Act and some maternity leave rights. TUPE obligations also derive from EU law. “For now the Government’s position, as outlined in a recent white paper, is that the current employment regime will be preserved for the time being. The white paper states that this will allow 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. “In the longer term, the Government will be free to either strengthen employment protection, further deregulate the labour market, or adopt a middle course by making improvements in areas like TUPE for the benefit of business and employees alike. “Businesses will need to keep a close eye on developments to ensure they are best placed to make the right decisions in light of the changes that are bound to occur at some point, as a result of Brexit.” Croner has a Brexit helpline for employers and professionals who have questions around employing foreign workers and the wider impact on employment law. To take advantage of this service, call 0844 728 0127.

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