Following the UK’s departure from the EU and the end of the transition period at the end of 2020, how does EU law now operate in the UK?
A limited range of EU law continues to apply in the UK under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, for example, in relation to citizens’ rights, separation provisions, and the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Most references to EU law in the withdrawal agreement updated until the end of the transition period, and were then frozen at the end of transition. Some references continue to update after the end of the transition period, requiring compliance with EU law as amended from time to time. Entirely new EU acts could be added under a procedure in the Northern Ireland Protocol.
UK law passed or made before the end of the transition period must be interpreted, as far as possible and so far as relevant, in accordance with EU law. For example, UK legislation which implemented an EU directive must continue to be interpreted in light of the wording and purpose of the EU directive.
The withdrawal agreement created a new category of UK law, known as retained EU law, based on the EU law that applied to the UK at the end of the transition period.
To the extent consistent with the terms of the withdrawal agreement, the future relationship agreements, and the UK’s international agreements with other countries, the UK is free to decide the extent of changes to retained EU law. For example, retained EU law has been, and will be, amended to work in a UK context post-transition, to replace EU policies with UK policies, to mirror post-transition developments in EU law, and to implement the UK’s international agreements with non-EU countries.