The Great Repeal Bill - not just a copy and paste exercise

15 May 2017

By Laura Cox 

The Government provided some insight on what to expect when we finally get sight of the Great Repeal Bill 2017 (GRB) in its white paper on ‘Legislating for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union’ (the White Paper) issued on 30 March 2017. Precisely when the Government will lay the GRB before Parliament is unclear, particularly in light of the General Election on 8 June 2017.

The GRB aims to serve a number of different purposes. First, it will repeal the European Communities Act 1972, which took the UK into the European Union (EU) over 40 years ago. Second, it will transpose EU law (as at the exit date) into UK law. Third, the Government wants the GRB to give it wide-ranging powers to transpose EU law into UK law by using statutory instruments wherever possible, rather than enacting new or amending existing primary UK legislation. Some members of Parliament and commentators have expressed concern that this approach could prevent Parliament from exercising scrutiny over the legislative changes.

Many details are still unclear, and the GRB’s content and legislative approach will likely be impacted by the UK’s negotiations with the EU. But what is clear is that the task ahead is enormous, unparalleled in our legislative history, and fraught with potential for error. Getting it right is important - one of the UK’s most valued strengths as a place to do business is its robust legal system.

Translating the EU regime into UK law presents a particular challenge for financial services, because the EU has substantially harmonised financial services law and regulation over the last 15 years. Added to that, both the EU and UK financial services regimes are complex, and heavily intertwined. We will explore the issues related to financial services in more detail in a second blog.

So what next?

The Government will need to balance the short timeframe available to convert the vast body of EU law with the quality of transposition.

The transposition of existing EU law into UK law is by no means a simple task and the Government will need to consider how to replicate and amend where necessary EU specific provisions contained in EU regulations and technical standards. It will also need to consider which UK institutions will have capacity to take over the role of EU bodies such as European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) and European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) for this purpose, and whether this might necessitate a new regulatory structure in the UK.

How will this impact my business?

Firms will want to follow the legislative process closely as the GRB progresses. The Government is likely to value input from firms, industry bodies and professional services providers as it goes through the legislative process, to ensure that financial services law is fully and correctly transposed into UK law. Firms should identify which areas of law are key to their business, and gear up to analyse proposed changes and participate in the consultation processes that HM Treasury and the regulators will need to undertake.

Firms may also want to start considering direct impacts on their business, at least at a high level. For example, as a result of the legislative framework changes, firms may need to update key parts of their infrastructure such as systems, rule-mapping that supports compliance and other monitoring, internal policies and procedures. Starting to identify these impacts now as part of the firm’s Brexit planning will help ensure a smooth transition to the new UK regime.  

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