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EU legislation and UK law

Before exit: Legislation originating from the EU

As a member of the European Union, section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972 (c. 68) made provision for EU legislation to become law in the UK in two ways.

  • Some EU legislation was directly applicable to the UK. This meant that it applied automatically in UK law, without any action required by the UK. This legislation is published on the EUR-Lex website.
  • Other EU legislation required domestic implementing legislation before it became national law. UK legislation that implemented EU legislation was generally in the form of secondary legislation made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 (c. 68), though sometimes primary legislation, or secondary legislation made under another Act, was used. Implementing legislation is published on legislation.gov.uk, as part of the UK statute book. For example, see The Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005 that implemented the EU Directive on the re-use of public sector information (Directive (EC) No. 2003/98).

EU Exit and the Implementation Period

The Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union sets out the arrangements for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU at 11.00 p.m. on 31 January 2020 (“exit day”). Part 4 of the Withdrawal Agreement makes provision for a transition or implementation period, during which time EU law, unless otherwise provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement, continues to apply in the UK. The implementation period is from exit day until 11.00 p.m. on 31 December 2020 (“IP completion day”).

The law that must be published after EU exit, and during the implementation period, is set out in Schedule 5 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (c. 16), as amended by paragraph 48 of Schedule 5 to the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.

Not all EU legislation will form part of UK law after IP completion day. The EU legislation that will be retained in UK law is set out in sections 3 and 20(1), and Schedule 6, to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (c. 16), as amended by regulation 2 of The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Exit Day) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 (No. 859) and regulation 2 of The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Exit Day) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2019 (No. 1423).