Brexit to Bring `Enormous' Legal Challenges, Top U.K. Judge Says

(Bloomberg) -- Unraveling European law and enshrining new U.K. legislation after Britain leaves the European Union is the "most complex" legal challenge the country has confronted, one of the top judges cautioned.

Brexit is "probably amongst the biggest peacetime issues that the U.K. has ever faced and without doubt the most complex in legal terms," Lord Chief Justice John Thomas said in a speech to lawyers Monday in London. 

The Repeal Bill being introduced by Prime Minister Theresa May will reverse the European Communities Act of 1972, which has given priority to EU law in the U.K. for decades. The Brexit Department estimates that the government will need to pass 800 to 1,000 statutory instruments to correct EU law after Brexit.

"One consequence of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union is that it faces the prospect that large parts of its law will need to be subjected to detailed scrutiny and potentially wide ranging amendment, with other parts of the law only made subject to minor revision," Thomas said. "Given the extent of European Union law and its integration into domestic law since 1972, the task is enormous in scale."

The senior judge, who’s set to retire later this year, also warned against judges being drawn into political decision making. Thomas himself was cast, along with two others, as an "Enemy of the People" by the Daily Mail newspaper for the 2016 decision that the U.K. Parliament should hold a vote before triggering Article 50.

"The courts have no interest in being drawn into political decision-making," he said. "This is an area where it should be for Parliament to have made the political decision with as much scrutiny as is practicable. It is bad for our democracy for political issues to be brought to the courts."