The EU has brought into force around 19,000 legislative acts which have directly set out much of the legal framework and regulations in the UK. Some of the most important are around competition, intellectual property, employment rules and environmental standards.
Key challenges for business
How will the key EU rules and regulations change for UK businesses post-Brexit?
Following the end of the transition period, businesses won’t face substantial changes to so-called level playing field regulations, including employment rules, competition policy and environmental standards. These laws have been copied from EU law into UK law – at Westminster and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – so these rules and procedures will be the same as before.
One of the changes that businesses will have to consider are in the long-term – as there may be a desire from politicians to reform some of these areas of legislation; however some agreements may depend on the final outcome of negotiations. The other is that the public authorities that would usually adjudicate businesses following these rules are only UK authorities. For example, legal action related to employment regulations in the UK will not be referable to the European courts, only the UK ones. Similarly, the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority), Ofwat and Ofcom may be responsible for competition cases that would normally be handled by their EU counterparts – this will be subject to the outcome of negotiations between the UK and the EU.
Are there any challenges that could cause difficulties for firms post-Brexit?
Whilst the UK’s public authorities have been preparing for the end of the transition period, some bodies, such as the CMA may have to take over additional responsibilities that had previously resided at EU level. If this were to happen, government would need to ensure such bodies had sufficient resource to deal with any additional responsibilities post-Brexit.
The legislation that copies over EU law into UK law is also not yet entirely complete, with a range of statutory instruments (SIs) that are required to edit EU law still needing to be passed. This creates the risk of legal uncertainty due to an incomplete legal framework, however, the expectation is that all SIs will be passed by the end of the year. The UK government are also currently working on a Bill to codify the UK Internal Market which will seek to add an element of legal framework for businesses trading internally within the UK.
What will happen to protections that the EU provides to UK products and designs?
Though it varies protection by protection, most designs and products protected under EU mechanisms will continue to be protected. For example, EU Trademarks will continue to be valid in the EU and the UK will create a comparable UK trademark. However, they will be fully independent trademarks which can be challenged, assigned, licensed or renewed separately from the original EU Trademark. The same is true for Registered Community Designs, and unregistered protection for designs will continue to exist through the UK unregistered design right.
The UK’s involvement in most international protection systems will also continue, meaning trademarks protected under the Madrid system will be maintained, as will many UK copyrighted works such as music, films, books and photographs protected through international treaties. The government has also stated that should the transition period end without a deal, it will not affect the UK’s involvement in the European Patent Convention and the Unified Patent Court.
However, many of these frameworks may not be entirely complete, and businesses should anticipate changes in the long-term. IP cooperation with the EU will need to be negotiated, for example, and the UK will need to establish new schemes to protect certain types of rights for unregistered community designs.