Helping you understand Welsh law

Introduction to European law

The European Union (EU) is an economic and political partnership between 28 European states, currently including the United Kingdom.  The European Union we know today is the product of a process of evolution and change spanning more than sixty years. 

There is a large and growing body of European Union law which binds the United Kingdom and its citizens while the UK continues to be a Member State. For the time being, European Union laws continue to form a significant part of our legal system, and influence many areas of our daily life.  The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) distinguishes between three types of competence (i.e. areas within the remit of the EU) and draws up a non-exhaustive list of the fields concerned in each case.

European Union law is binding within the UK and prevails where there is a conflict with UK law. Powers devolved to the National Assembly for Wales and transferred to the Welsh Ministers must be exercised in accordance with European Union law.

General information on European Union legislation and its relevance to Wales can be found on the National Assembly’s website.

In a referendum held on 23 June 2016 a majority voted in favour of the UK leaving the European Union. On 29 March 2017 the Prime Minister of the UK notified the European Council of its intention to leave the EU, which formally triggered Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). 

In the absence of the ratification of a withdrawal agreement reached between the UK and the EU, the withdrawal period provided for under Article 50(3) TEU was due to come to an end at 11pm (GMT) on 29 March 2019. This period under Article 50(3) was first extended to 12 April 2019 and subsequently extended to 31 October 2019. In the absence of a withdrawal agreement reached before then, the UK will continue to be a Member State until 31 October 2019. 

As a Member State during this extended period, the UK will continue to be subject to all EU law. This includes any new EU laws adopted by the EU during the extension period to 31 October 2019 (and any further extension). The information contained here on the EU and the application of EU law within Wales will therefore continue to be applicable during the period of any extension to the period under Article 50(3) TEU. A specific page, providing information on the legislative impact of the UK leaving the EU, can also be found under Brexit. 

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