Great Repeal Bill: No immediate changes to workers’ rights

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Brexit minister David Davis said nothing would change overnight, despite new parliamentary powers to amend legislation
Mark Thomas/REX/Shutterstock

The Government has issued a White Paper detailing how it will replace EU legislation with national laws, just one day after Prime Minister Theresa May activated Article 50.

The Great Repeal Bill, at it is known, repeals the European Communities Act 1972, which says EU law is supreme to that of the UK.

Announcing the details of the White Paper, Brexit minister David Davis said there would be three key elements: to repeal the European Communities Act; to convert any existing EU law into UK law; and to give parliament powers to create secondary legislation to enable corrections to any laws that would no longer be appropriate once we have left the EU.

The Bill will come into force the day the UK officially leaves the EU and will formally be announced in the next Queen’s Speech.

In a foreword to the White Paper, May said: “This approach will provide maximum certainty as we leave the EU.

“The same rules and laws will apply on the day after exit as on the day before. It will then be for democratically elected representatives in the UK to decide on any changes to that law, after full scrutiny and proper debate.”

Davis said there would be no overnight changes to workers’ rights currently enshrined in EU laws.

He said: “The Great Repeal Bill will convert EU law as it applies in the UK into domestic law on the day we leave – so that wherever practical and sensible, the same laws and rules will apply immediately before and immediately after our departure.

“It is not a vehicle for policy changes – but it will give the Government the necessary power to correct or remove the laws that would otherwise not function properly once we have left the EU.”

According to the Commons Library, unravelling EU law will be “one of the largest legislative projects ever undertaken in the UK”.

The Government said that there would be no jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) once the UK has formally left the EU. However, the White Paper acknowledges that ECJ decisions up to the date of leaving will have a bearing over our legislative framework, and that this should remain the case.

It points out that where workers’ rights have been extended by ECJ judgments, those rights will continue to be protected in the UK once we have left the EU.

It added: “In a number of areas, UK employment law already goes further than the minimum standards set out in EU legislation, and this Government will continue to protect and enhance the rights people have at work.

“Furthermore, all the protections covered in the Equality Act 2006, the Equality Act 2010 and equivalent legislation in Northern Ireland will continue to apply once the UK has left the EU.

“This approach will give certainty to service providers and users, as well as employees and employers, creating stability in which the UK can grow and thrive.”

However, Labour MP and shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer called for more reassurance that individuals’ rights and protections would not be watered down through new parliamentary powers.

He said: “Basic rights and protections should be set down through primary legislation. We must resist the temptation to water these down.”

Davis later added that the Government will not be publishing a draft Great Repeal Bill, as it would with typical legislation. Instead, he said, it would take on board points made during a consultation on the White Paper.

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