What will leaving the EU mean for regulation in the UK?

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Whatever else is unclear to those of us trying to make some sense of Brexit, what’s certain is the UK will be exiting the EU at the end of March 2019 – if you’re really interested, we leave one hour before the EU has us down as leaving (11pm as opposed to midnight), but that’s because of the time difference.

 

Listen up – EU regulation and its future is important

From the moment we leave, EU law will cease to be directly applicable, certainly in the way which we currently know it. Dry as death valley this topic might be for most people, its critically important, not just for business, but for all of us, as individuals, consumers, employers and workers. Why then is this?

Well, EU regulation now permeates much of our lives – our employment rights, the environment we live in, how our personal data is processed and the protection of our health and safety are but a few areas where EU law has made its mark – usually without us realising this. EU regulation in the UK is usually thought of as governing bananas, vacuum cleaners and light bulbs, and therefore in negative terms. Of course much of what employers are concerned about actually stems from UK law (check out our blog: Not from Brussels, with love)

It’s true that high-level EU working groups on the ideal shape of an aubergine probably didn’t help the EU’s cause.

 

But aubergines aside - what difference will leaving the EU make to the lives of UK businesses, and should we care?

Yes, we should all care – we’re leaving the EU, but I’d guess no-one who voted to leave did so to dismantle the UK’s legal structure, even if they could tell which bits of our laws come from the EU and which are home grown.

The Brexit debate is dominated by something called the Court of Justice, which is too often confused with the European Court of Human Rights.

If it had ever been explained the public in the UK what EU law covers, and how little the Court of Justice affects our day to day lives, then most would probably rather cut short the discussion and find something more interesting to do.

 

So, back to the first point – we’re leaving, what then?

The short answer to the question must be, very little. Not because we’re incapable for making our own laws, and not because there is a grand conspiracy to remain in the EU by stealth, but because we really have no alternative. I’ve read various estimates of how many individual pieces of EU regulation govern the UK, and as a result, have no idea – anything from 7,000, to 12,000 to 14,000. We’ve never really kept count. But the point is, trying to do anything other than maintain as far as possible everything as it is on 29th March 2019 is beyond the capacity of government and Parliament. Just maintain a steady state will be all we can realistically achieve – and there is the small point that no-one has been told of what we plan on changing or when the changes might take effect.

Finally, after a long and windy road, eventually, there is some consensus in the UK that a planned exit from the EU is a good idea – otherwise known as a transition. The alternative is a little like bailing out without a parachute. Business groups like EEF favour an approach of letting the plane land before trying to exit.

Download and read our latest Brexit Briefing on UK Regulation below...

 

Author

Director of Employment and Skills Policy

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