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British judges to get new powers to overturn European court rulings

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill will include provisions enabling the lower courts to depart from European case law after Brexit.

The Government is to legislate to enable the lower courts to overturn rulings of the European Court of Justice (PA)
The Government is to legislate to enable the lower courts to overturn rulings of the European Court of Justice (PA)

By Gavin Cordon, Press Association Whitehall Editor

The Government is to legislate to give British judges new powers to overturn rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Brexit, Downing Street has confirmed.

Theresa May had previously agreed to transfer existing European case law into British law after the UK leaves the EU – a move which angered many Tory Eurosceptics.

It would have meant that only the Supreme Court and the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland were allowed to “depart” from EU law.

This is an important change which will ensure that we do not inadvertently stay bound by EU rulings for many years No 10 official spokesman

However, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Bill to implement Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal would now include a clause enabling the lower courts to overturn ECJ rulings as well.

“The Bill will ensure that the Supreme Court is not the only institution able to consider retaining European court of Justice rulings,” the spokesman said.

“This is an important change which will ensure that we do not face a legal bottleneck and inadvertently stay bound by EU rulings for many years.

“We will take back control of our laws and disentangle ourselves from the EU’s legal order just as was promised to the British people.”

The move was welcomed by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, now a leading figure in the pro-Brexit European Research Group.

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Iain Duncan Smith

“This is a critical pledge that puts sovereign rights back in the hands of the United Kingdom Government and of course the British people,” he told the BBC.

The clause will be contained in the revised version of the Withdrawal Implementation Bill (WAB) which is due to be introduced in the Commons on Thursday ahead of a second reading vote by MPs on Friday.

Ministers are aiming for the legislation to complete its passage through Parliament in the new year, enabling the UK to leave with a deal in place at the end of January as planned.

Downing Street has already said the Bill has been reworked to legally prohibit any extension to the transition period – which kicks in after Britain leaves – to enable talks on a free trade deal to continue if there is no agreement by the end of 2020.

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