The Prime Minister, Theresa May announced at the Conservative Party conference on 2 October 2016 that Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union will be triggered before the end of March 2017, and that the next Queen’s Speech will include a “Great Repeal Bill”. This will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 with effect from the Brexit date. However, it would also provide that, after Brexit, law and regulations which have their basis in the European Communities Act 1972 would continue in force as UK law (presumably with appropriate exceptions). At some point after Brexit, each remaining measure would be reviewed as appropriate, and a decision taken as to whether to modify or withdraw it.

Assuming that Article 50 is triggered as planned under Royal prerogative, then the timing will be as follows:

  • By the end of March 2017: Article 50 to be invoked and the two-year formal negotiations for withdrawal from the EU to commence. The government has said that it will not provide a “running commentary” on these negotiations.
  • Next Queen’s Speech (April or May 2017): The “Great Repeal Bill” is introduced.
  • First quarter 2019: The UK formally leaves the EU and the Great Repeal Bill becomes effective on receipt of Royal Assent, before the next European Parliament elections.

While the Prime Minister’s speech gives a clear indication on the timing of the Brexit procedure, it does not spell out the approach the government will take in its negotiations for withdrawal from the EU, nor does it provide any detail on what the process will be for unpicking EU legislation from the UK statute book after Brexit, and whether transitional provisions will be put in place.