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Applicability of European Law

Key Points

  • This card reflects the position before exit day including the transition period  which ended on 31st December 2020. For information on the status of EU decisions and legislation from 31st December 2020 please see Statement on impact of Brexit on Emplaw Online content

  • EU law is not generally directly enforceable against private bodies or individuals. Private bodies and individuals are, of course, required to comply with national legislation, and in many instances the UK government will have implemented EU law within the UK through the body of national legislation.

  • EU law can, however, be directly enforceable against public bodies and emanations of the state. Such institutions, therefore, must be alert to obligations to which they might be subject under EU measures in addition to their obligations under national law.

  • UK courts are required to take a “purposive” approach to the interpretation of EU legislation and must ensure that UK laws are construed as consistently as possible with EU law. This approach is referred to as “indirect effect”. If it is not possible for the UK court to interpret national law in a way that is consistent with EU law then national law will prevail.


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