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21st June 2016

‘Brexit’ – Our Immediate Thoughts…

Thursday’s referendum resulted in Britain making one of its most important decisions in decades. The outcome promises to have a significant effect on individuals, business owners, and policymakers. But what effect will the decision have on UK health and safety? 

It appears that experts agree that there will be no immediate effect on health and safety regardless of the referendum outcome, however……

Currently, the UK’s health and safety legislation is made up of a combination of our own law, and predominantly law formed and implemented from EU directives. In February 2016 a paper presented to parliament by foreign secretary Philip Hammond concluded that after notification of withdrawal, Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union provides for a two-year time limit for the withdrawal agreement to come to force, after which the ”treaties would cease to apply.” 

After this, it may be that EU laws have to be re-made as UK law. However, if the UK were to negotiate to continue its close trade ties with the EU, we would still be subject to a number of EU legislation and rules.

Had the referendum resulted in Britain remaining part of the European Union this would have likely led to renegotiation of membership terms. If this was the case, the aim of any renegotiation in regard to health and safety would likely have been to reduce the burden on smaller businesses. Pro-EU campaigners would argue, however, that the UK has benefited from EU health and safety legislation as well as legislation which ensures the safety of food and medical products.

The UK’s health and safety performance is considered amongst the best in the whole of Europe, and though leaving the EU could have an impact on H&S legislation, it is therefore unlikely to prove as fundamental as proponents of Brexit envisaged and unions feared.

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