The Great Repeal Bill

The government published its white paper on the Great Repeal Bill (GRB) on Friday 30th March. This contains the intentions of the Bill although the final Act will not be published until the autumn. Comments are invited on the white paper at

The purpose of the Act is to give the necessary powers and safeguards to allow EU rules to continue as UK law helping maintain legal certainty for business. These UK laws can then be amended as necessary but no timescales have been given for this amendment process.

The Act is not intended to have any function past the exit date. It will not contain details of specific legislation but will give powers to make new primary and secondary legislation; essentially converting all EU legislation to UK legislation without transcribing and passing each regulation individually. Then primary and secondary regulation will be used to make corrections so EU rules continue to operate smoothly.

Balancing the requirement for scrutiny and the need for speed, the intention is to use primary legislation for new legislation where the EU law is no longer suitable, such as customs and citizens' rights. Secondary legislation will be used to amend the EU laws so they continue to function as UK law.

Primary legislation is subject to full parliamentary scrutiny, whereas secondary legislation is made by the minister responsible and may not undergo parliamentary scrutiny. However, there are safeguards in place which require secondary legislation to be put through parliamentary procedure if it is deemed necessary and this will be used when EU rules are changed rather than maintained.

It is important to note that this Act and the Government's priority is to ensure the smooth running of the current EU rules on exit and not to make amendments to change the rules. The priority will be to action any 'inoperables' that may not work with the current rules, estimated to be around 5% of current food law.

Examples of inoperables are:

  • EU laws that are regulations which are directly applicable and therefore will cease to have effect on exit.
  • EU directives which are not directly applicable and need to be implemented using UK legislation. Where this implementing legislation was made under UK legislation it will be unaffected by the removal of EU law, however where the UK legislation was made under powers in the ECA it will cease to have effect in the same way as EU regulations. 
  • EU regulations that contain references to EU or member states which will need correcting.
  • EU regulations that require an issue to be referred to an EU institution.
  • EU regulations that refer to an EU agency or procedure which will no longer be available so an alternative will need to be agreed.   

The Act will also give similar powers to the devolved administrations. This will apply where the EU regulation is a devolved issue so while the inoperables in transposing the EU rules will be the same, the solutions could be different.