With the Supreme Court case on the triggering of Article 50 rumbling on this week and both the UK government and the EU representatives making almost daily statements on how negotiations will be conducted, now seems like an opportune time to consider the impact that EU law has had on our lives. Here are just a few examples of things that might change post-Brexit:
- Competition Law. Competition law does not just affect huge businesses with enormous market share. Any business which participates in a supply chain or as a distributor may be affected. EU and UK competition law is currently identical, but this may not always be the case following in exit from the EU. Businesses will also no longer be protected by the EU Vertical Agreements Directive, which covers distribution agreements.
- Distance Selling. Businesses which deal with consumers otherwise then face to face have to comply with the Distance Selling Regulations. This covers what information has to be provided to a customer and when (and if) the customer can return items purchased. Exit from the EU will mean that we will have to reconsider these rules and businesses selling to consumers both in the UK and EU may have to comply with two sets of differing rules.
- TUPE. The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations protect employees where their employer sells the business they work for. It also covers changes in service providers, like outsourcing. This is the same all over the EU, because it comes from a piece of EU legislation called the Acquired Rights Directive. Businesses tend to dislike TUPE, so this may not survive post-Brexit.
- Working Time. Love your holidays? The Working Time Regulations implement EU law, covering how much paid holiday you should get, how many hours per week you can be made to work and what breaks you have to be given. While the government indicated they would not be looking to reduce employee protection, this may come up for review in the future.
- Brussels Regulation. The courts of all EU member states have the same rules to work out where cases should be heard where you have parties in different countries. Without this legislation, we will revert back to the traditional English rules, which are quite complicated. They may also differ from the rules of other countries, leading to potential uncertainty.
- Rome Regulation. It is not just where a contract law case is heard which is important, but also what law governs the contract itself. The Rome Regulation sets this out. Again, without this piece of legislation, we will have to formulate our own rules for this and work with the rules of other countries to make this as simple as possible.
The EU Commission's chief negotiator has warned that a deal with the UK on Brexit should be reached by October 2018. Michel Barnier’s call for the tight schedule, in his first briefing on preparations for Article 50 negotiations, increases pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May to reveal details of her negotiating position.