European Communities Act

European Communities Act 1972


  • The European Communities Act 1972 was an essential legislative piece that marked the UK’s entry into the European Union.
  • It recognised the supremacy of EU law, meaning all existing and future EU law took precedence over domestic law.


  • The Act facilitated widespread changes to UK law, as it required all directly applicable EU Regulations and EU Treaty provisions to have force in the UK without the need for a further Act of Parliament.
  • It also allowed for the implementation of EU Directives and other EU legislative acts through delegated legislation, resulting in a significant shift in the constitutional law of the UK.
  • The Act made EC law an integral part of the UK’s legal system, and the UK courts were obliged to interpret domestic law as far as possible to be compatible with EU law.
  • It set a major precedent for parliamentary sovereignty, as it was the first time it had been explicitly limited by an Act of Parliament.

Impact and Influence

  • The Act influenced a significant number of our laws, particularly in areas such as agriculture, fishing and employment law.
  • Its influence extended to devolution, giving devolved legislatures power to implement EU obligations.


  • The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, following the 2016 Brexit referendum, repealed the European Communities Act on 31 January 2020, the date of the UK’s formal departure from the EU.

The European Communities Act 1972 was a landmark act, drastically impacting the UK legal system and shaping the relationship between domestic and EU law during the UK’s membership in the EU. Its repeal has equally significant implications for the UK’s legal and constitutional frameworks.