This article explores a fascinating moment in UK legal history. The Sun sets on EU Law on 31st December 2023. From the 1st January 2024 any remaining EU law becomes UK law and the UK has full control of its legal framework and can determine its legal disputes and shape its own legal framework.
The European Union had its foundations laid in 1951 with the Treaty of Paris which established the European Coal and Steel Community and by 1957 the Treaty of Rome created the European Economic Community. The UK joined neither treaty for concerns of excluding its Commonwealth Countries and to continue its policy of Worldwide trade and not inhibit Sterling which was a major World currency at the time.
The UK first applied to join the European Economic Community in 1961. The French government in 1963 vetoed this application and the French vetoed a second application, in 1967. It was only after applying in 1969 that negotiation for British membership began, with talks starting in 1970. The UK joined the European Economic Community on 1 January 1973, alongside Denmark and Ireland. In 1992 Tony Blair signed the Maastricht Treaty on behalf of the UK and the European Community or EU (European Union) was born.
After 43 years of joining the EEC and after 24 years as a full member of the EU the British referendum in 2016 voted to leave the EU. The EU Withdrawal Act 2018 preserved EU- derived law as retained EU law after we left the EU on 1st January 2021.
During its membership of the EU the regulations and decisions of the EU were automatically applied in the UK and directives were incorporated by Acts of Parliament. There were literally thousands of laws and regulations incorporated into UK law.
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 takes effect from the 1st January 2024 and repeals section 4 of The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which ends the supremacy of European law over UK Law. From the period of 1st January 2021 to 31st December 2023, the government has reconsidered vast amounts of EU law and decided which EU laws will end on 31st December 2023. This will be a historical date in terms of UK law becoming Sovereign again. Many EU laws will remain as UK law. However, thousands of regulations will not be retained and these will cease to be law in the UK after the 31 December 2023. The government has provided a schedule of currently retained EU law that will be revoked at the end of 2023. The revoked laws and regulations can be accessed with this hyper link. Schedule of retained EU law – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
This does not affect the right to bring cases at the European Court of Human Rights. This institution is separate to the European Union. The Human Rights Act 1998 allows UK courts to enforce rights under the European Convention on Human Rights 1950. The Human Rights Act 1988 has not been revoked and it ensures that our courts are applying the internationally approved consensus on Human Rights.
From 1st January 2024 any remaining EU law will be assimilated into UK domestic law, however, the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 gives the UK parliament the powers to revoke retained European laws altogether, or replace them with a UK version as long as it does not create more administrative burdens.
Most of our Equality rights in the UK originate from European Law. There has been talk of reducing some aspects of TUPE and reforming Holiday allowance but not reducing it. So far UK employment Law emerges unscathed after the 31 December 2023.