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The end of European Union law in Great Britain

This evening, 31st December 2020 at 11.00pm,* European Union law ceased to apply in Great Britain, exactly 48 years after European Community law (as it was then called) first imposed itself on our legal system when we joined the EEC at the end of 1972. So once again our Parliament is sovereign, and because it is sovereign, Parliament and our government are now fully accountable to the British people for their actions.

From the referendum result in June 2016, it has taken a tortuous and sometimes torturous four and a half years of struggle to get to this point. We have had to overcome delays, obstructions, and attempts to reverse the referendum. Most dangerously, we have faced determined attempts to turn our exit from the European Union into a hollow BRINO in which we would become a vassal of the EU, obliged to follow its rules on the making of which we have no vote.

After this struggle, we now stand on the field of victory, with 90% of our sovereignty restored. It is not 100% because there are some remaining enemy strongholds to overcome. Most notably in Northern Ireland where EU single market and customs laws and European Court jurisdiction continue to apply; in getting back full control of our fishing waters; and in the European Court’s continuing ability to intrude into our legal system and alter the rules on EU citizens. All these remain unfinished business.

But tonight, let us celebrate.

Martin Howe

*For those interested, why 11pm and not midnight? It is because international treaties customarily come into force or cease according to the time zone of the place where the treaty was signed. The UK’s 1972 Accession Treaty to the EEC was signed in Brussels (by Edward Heath, who had ink poured over him by a protester).


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Martin Howe