European Communities Act 1972 (UK)

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The European Communities Act 1972
Long title An Act to make provision in connection with the enlargement of the European Communities to include the United Kingdom, together with (for certain purposes) the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Gibraltar.
Citation 1972 c. 68
Territorial extent England and Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland
Royal Assent 17 October 1972
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The European Communities Act 1972 (c. 68) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom providing for the incorporation of European Union law (originally Community law) into the domestic law of the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland has a law of the same name, Act No. 27 of 1972.


The primary significance of the EC Act 1972 is that (apart from being the instrument whereby the UK was able to accede to the European Communities (now: the European Union) it enables under section 2(2) for Government ministers to lay regulations before Parliament to implement required changes to UK law (for example, Decisions of the European Court of Justice and EU Directives). It also provides in section 2(4) that all UK legislation, including primary legislation (Acts of Parliament) shall have effect "subject to" directly applicable EU Law. In the famous Factortame case, the House of Lords (Lord Bridge) has interpreted this provision as inserting an implied clause into all UK statutes that they shall not apply where they conflict with European law, in what was seen as a major departure from the English constitutional doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty (see Factortame: Sovereignty and the EU).

The repeal of this Act would leave European Union law unenforceable in the UK.[1]

Section 11 - Community offences[edit]

Section 11(2) appears to implement Article 194 of the Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community done at Rome on 25 March 1957. It must be construed and the Official Secrets Acts 1911 to 1939 have effect, as if it was contained in the Official Secrets Act 1911 but so that sections 10 and 11, except section 10(4), do not apply.[2]


  1. ^ Akehurst, Michael; Malanczuk, Peter (1997). Akehurst's modern introduction to international law. London: Routledge. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-0-415-11120-1. 
  2. ^ The European Communities Act 1972, section 11(2), final paragraph.