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Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Act 2020

Pillar 2

Exiting the European Union

69.EU law was given effect in Scotland by the European Communities Act 1972 (the “1972 Act”).

70.The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (“EUWA”) repealed the 1972 Act with effect from exit day, whilst also preserving its continued effect in UK law during the transition period until IP completion day, which is currently due to be 31 December 2020 (see sections 1 and 1A of EUWA). The practical effect is that this will remove the constitutional basis for EU law having effect in the United Kingdom on IP completion day.

71.The basis in international law for EU law having effect in the UK was simultaneously extinguished by the operation of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, but the legal effect of EU law in the UK was also preserved during the transition period to IP completion day under Article 127 of the Withdrawal Agreement.

72.EUWA also provides for the retention of most of that law, as it stands on IP completion day, by converting it into a new body of domestic law. The effect is to adopt a rulebook and set of institutional arrangements that is – at least at first – close to that which currently exists under EU law.

73.This new body of domestic law is called “retained EU law”, and rolls the former EU law into national law under three distinct provisions:

  • section 2 of the EUWA preserves EU-derived domestic legislation. This typically concerns the subordinate legislation made (usually, but not always, under the 1972 Act) or any primary legislation passed in order to implement one or more EU directives,

  • section 3 of the EUWA preserves direct EU legislation. This is defined as all EU regulations, decisions or tertiary legislation and certain parts of the EEA Agreement,(21) and

  • section 4 of the EUWA preserves any directly effective residual rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures in EU law, subject to several specified exceptions.

74.Separately, Article 137 of the Withdrawal Agreement dis-applied EU direct payment rules for the 2020 claim year. Those rules were therefore converted into domestic law on 31 January 2020 by section 1 of the Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Act 2020. Those rules are, as modified, now retained EU law.

75.This retained EU law will otherwise take effect at the end of the transition period.

76.The UK is also retaining:

  • most general principles of EU law as they existed on IP completion day,

  • most rights and obligations that currently exist in domestic law because of section 2(1) of the 1972 Act as they exist on IP completion day, and

  • relevant case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union issued before IP completion day (though the UK Supreme Court and High Court of Justiciary need no longer follow it).

77.The UK is not, however, retaining the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, EU directives themselves, the principle of the supremacy of EU law, or the Francovich principle of state liability (in relation to post-exit facts).

78.The EUWA also provides a scheme that determines the constitutional status of these elements of former EU law. Whereas previously the principle of supremacy of EU law would have given all EU law priority over any domestic law or legislation, the same is not true for retained EU law.

79.EU law retained under section 2 of the EUWA already has a domestic status, as it is either in an act of the UK or Scottish Parliament or in subordinate legislation (mainly but not exclusively made under the 1972 Act).

80.EU law retained under sections 3 and 4 of the EUWA, however, is neither primary nor secondary legislation. It is instead a new category of domestic law subject to bespoke rules determining how it may be modified. Section 7 and schedule 8 of the EUWA sets out those rules.

81.The status of retained EU law not falling into existing domestic categories is defined by section 7 of the EUWA. It subdivides retained direct EU legislation into two categories:

  • retained direct “principal” EU legislation, and

  • retained direct “minor” EU legislation.

82.These two categories do not directly correspond to “primary” and “secondary” legislation, which are the normal distinctions drawn in domestic law. Instead, the EUWA sets out the rules that govern how those two categories of law can be modified or repealed, and by what type of conventional domestic legal instrument.

83.The key difference between “minor” and “principal” retained direct EU legislation is that minor legislation can be modified by secondary legislation, but principal legislation must be modified by primary legislation unless and to the extent that the provisions under which any secondary legislation is made provide otherwise.

84.The CAP Regulations as defined in section 1 of the Act are for the most part principal EU legislation, and it follows that the express powers in Part 1 of the Act are required in order to enable the Scottish Ministers to modify those Regulations after exit.

85.EU law applies in all the Member States, and so confers duties and powers on the European Commission including, for example, the power to make EU implementing and delegated legislation. It follows that retained EU law needs to be modified to correct any provisions which would cease to operate, or not be appropriate, outside of the EU. These changes (known as ‘deficiency fixes’) have effect from IP completion day in measures made by and under the EUWA. Deficiency fixes in respect of retained Direct Payments legislation made by and under the Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Act 2020 took effect on exit day.

86.The CAP rules as they form part of retained EU law will therefore have effect subject to those deficiency fixes, which include for example powers for the Scottish Ministers to make subordinate legislation on matter formerly delegated to the Commission.

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the Scottish Government to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Acts of the Scottish Parliament except those which result from Budget Bills.


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