Can the UK avoid a Brexit legislative minefield for manufacturers?

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The title to this blog, hopefully, catches the eye of the reader – but it’s not as sensationalist as it first seems.

Legislation, regulation and law, generally, is not the stuff of canteen conversation for businesspeople. It’s generally seen as rather dull, and surely there are more important Brexity issues to think about, like trade, exports and where I am going to get my workers from?

But, many people in business would be hard pressed to remember back to the days of the late 1960’s when the UK was outside the EU, as it’s now called. What might life be like again if the UK turned its back on the EU’s institutions (in other words, its laws) and the EU saw fit not to agree a deal on its complex web of legislation?

Stuff of nightmares this may be, but why, in day-to-day terms, does any of this technical legal stuff matter?

The easiest way to give some needed colour to a monochrome topic is to compare the UK to, say, Albania. Albania is not so far away, in Europe, but not a top destination for UK manufacturers, or the UK in general. I don’t know much about the laws of Albania, have never been there, and am not even sure what the currency is. But I’m unlikely to be too keen on investing my life-savings there, and I have no idea what I would need to do if I didn’t get what I bargained for there.

So, Brexit day 1, no deal with the EU, what happens to the law as far as businesses are concerned?

Apart from anything else, what does happen if the goods I have paid for don’t turn up? Read your small print carefully – most of the time, the seller may have a blanket get out of jail free card in these very unusual circumstances. And there may be no real point in charging off to see your local lawyer, as any UK Court order may not be of any use in the EU.

Remember, this is no-deal Brexit. If I were an EU business, my starting point would be to deal with UK customers on the basis that they will comply with EU law – in fact, they might be unable to do anything else, but you get the picture. The UK becomes a legal island, alone, speaking its own legal language, which EU businesses can’t understand.

So, this is all a bit more important than we’ve been given to understand. Bringing back sovereignty to the UK may not be what we actually want – and we need to avoid framing this as an issue for businesses – it’s not, well, not entirely. It’s about ordinary people doing what they do every day – travelling to the EU, travelling from the EU, buying goods which come from the EU and assuming that this will all continue without an agreement on the basics that make all this work, which is a common set of legal rules.

So whilst Brexit day 1 is still some time off, businesses and consumers should care about getting the legal bit – the small print – right.

 

If you’re a UK manufacturer, the post-Brexit legal landscape will be critically important to your business, and you need to plan for this now. You can do this by getting involved with EEF at AMaran@eef.org.uk

 

Author

Director of Employment and Skills Policy

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