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Impact of Brexit on Environmental and Health and Safety laws

The potential impact which Brexit could have on the regulation of Environmental and Health and Safety law in the UK, will of course be largely dependent on the UK's negotiating skills. With article 50 being triggered in the first quarter of 2017, Brexit looms ever closer, so it is important to be aware of the potential changes that could be ahead.

Environmental Law Post-Brexit

Environmental law within the UK largely stems from our membership within the EU, some of which consists of directly applicable EU Regulations and some of which has been transposed into national law.

Waste management

Much of the regulation of waste management  stems from EU law, including directives relating to packaging, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment recycling and the management and disposal of waste.  The waste hierarchy (prevention, reuse, recycle, recover, and disposal) also stems from the EU and has become central to the UK's approach waste management. 

The UK's departure from the EU will not automatically result in the national legislation which transposes these directives into UK law being revoked, and we are unlikely to see much change in the short term.  But economic and competitive pressures could see environmental factors being pushed lower down the agenda. Another cause for concern is that the incentive to adhere to environmental standards currently provided by the EU's enforcement powers will no longer be present. 

Chemical Regulation

The regulation of chemicals is another area which is currently regulated at EU level via the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) regulation. Under REACH, those manufacturing or importing one tonne or more of certain regulated chemicals are required to register with a central European Chemicals Agency. Should the UK decide to remain a member of the EEA , REACH will continue to apply but it will need to be transposed into UK legislation to continue to take effect once the UK leaves the EU.  If the UK does not remain a member of the EEA then a new set of legislation will need to be adopted.

Health and Safety Law Post-Brexit

Health and safety law within the UK is unlikely to see much change as a result of our decision to exit the EU. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 underpins health and safety regulation within the UK and does not derive from European law. Whilst there have been many health and safety directives imposed by the EU during our membership they have largely been transposed into UK law and so will be unaffected by Brexit, unless a decision is taken to repeal them which is unlikely. 

It is difficult to see that there would be much incentive for deregulation, given that health, safety and welfare generally remains a high public priority and the UK is seen as a global leader for health and safety. 

TLT will continue to update on the changes to Environmental and Health and Safety law during Brexit. 

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at October 2016. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.


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