By Andrew Knorpel on 02nd June 2016
Whilst ‘Brexit’ becomes an everyday portmanteau word, igniting a national divide and saturating our airwaves, we summarise what to expect if Britain does vote to “Leave” and how it may affect our employment laws and the workplace.
A “Leave” vote would trigger a series of events for which there is no precedent. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (EU) provides a vague roadmap as to how the UK’s withdrawal from the EU would proceed. It will involve Mr Cameron officially notifying the EU of our withdrawal – the timing of this notice will be dictated by politics not law and David Cameron has declared that he will give notice the day after a ‘leave’ vote in the referendum. After that there will be a period of up to two years during which our Government would negotiate a “withdrawal agreement” with the EU, which would set out the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Upon expiry of the two years, all European treaties would cease to apply (in the absence of an extension being granted).
During the two year negotiation period, the UK would continue to be a full member of the EU and would continue to be required to abide by EU treaties and laws. A number of potential future models with the EU are currently being mooted, which include a ‘Norway style’ arrangement (European Economic Area membership only), a ‘Swiss style’ (bilateral trade) agreement with the EU or a bespoke UK solution.
Without the principles of EU law, there would be almost no restrictions on what the Government of the day could do in relation to employment laws and access to justice. However, if the UK is to maintain trade links with Europe it is likely to remain restricted to some extent under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Personal Predictions if we Brexit and negotiate under a Conservative Government:
1. Likely removal of legislation: on TUPE (harmonisation), working time rights, protection for agency workers, rights to collective information and consultation and removing the burdens of the health & safety legislation on employers.
2. Likely amendments to legislation: to the compensation limits on injury to feelings and discrimination awards;
3. Likely to remain unaffected by brexit: family friendly rules and the introduction of the new General Data Protection Regulation (Spring 2018) as the UK would be required to maintain an adequate level of data security for international data transfers .
In the short term, within two years (or until a Withdrawal Agreement is reached), there is likely to be little change, other than to legislation already in the pipeline. Thereafter, whether existing employment laws will survive, be amended or removed will depend on what ‘deal’ is done and the Government in place at the time of the ‘deal’.