Many UK trading laws derive from EU legislation such as regulations governing product safety, unfair commercial practices and consumer rights when buying online.
The implications of a Brexit on such issues will depend on the nature of the UK's exit from the EU and how legislation has been incorporated into UK law. For example, Acts of Parliament, such as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 that governs consumer rights and remedies in respect of contracts for goods, services and digital content, are standalone pieces of legislation that would remain following an "out" vote.
However, many EU trading laws are incorporated into UK law by secondary legislation under the European Communities Act 1972. If the 1972 Act is repealed following the UK's exit, any secondary legislation passed under it would fall away unless the Government takes steps to save it. Key trading laws falling within this category include:
- Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 – governing aggressive and unfair commercial practices
- General Product Safety Regulations 2005 – setting out product safety standards and obligations regarding product withdrawal/recall
- Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 – governing distance sales of goods and services to consumers.
It is impossible to predict at this stage how and which EU-based trading laws would be amended, repealed or remain as is. If the Government has the ability to make sweeping reforms, we consider that it would be unlikely to do so, at least in the short term, due to the uncertainty and disruption it is likely to create. A review on a piecemeal basis is much more likely. In any event, exporters to the EU will still need to ensure that their products are compliant with the applicable EU standards.