10:18, October 12 192 0 theguardian.com

2018-10-12 10:18:07
UK consumers could lose EU legal rights in event of no-deal Brexit

UK customers may be in legal limbo if they buy faulty products from EU countries in the event of a no-deal Brexit even if they take court action, the government has warned.

The warning comes in the latest tranche of 76 notices about potential issues arising if the government does not strike a deal with Brussels. The technical notice on consumer rights said there may be no legal protections when buying future products and services from EU countries.

“There may be an impact on the extent to which UK consumers are protected when buying goods and services in the remaining member states,” it said.

British customers would also no longer be able to use the UK courts to seek redress from EU-based traders, the Department for Exiting the European Union said.

“There will no longer be reciprocal obligations on the UK or EU member states to investigate breaches of consumer laws or take forward enforcement actions,” said the notice.

One notice said British business owners could face tough new restrictions on whether they can own, manage or be directors on companies registered in the EU. British citizens who run companies abroad could be required to meet residency requirements.

The amount of equity that a UK citizen can hold in their business could be restricted if they operate in an EU country, depending on local rules.

The notice said a UK audit firm may no longer be allowed to be the majority owner of an EU audit firm because of EU auditing laws.

Business groups said the notices showed the high burden of new bureaucracy in the event of a no-deal outcome.

“This last group of technical notices reveals how high the in-tray of new red tape for retail businesses will rise on a no deal Brexit,” said William Bain, Europe and international policy adviser at the British Retail Consortium.

“Companies will face new rules and requirements on cross-border accounting and audit, engaging skilled staff providing professional services support, or new legal or administrative barriers on UK companies offering services to customers within the EEA [European Economic Area]. Even labelling requirements for fibres in textiles and footwear will be affected. Hard-pressed retailers and consumers can’t afford a no deal Brexit.”

Other areas covered by the notices include Northern Ireland’s electricity supply, fishing and rail travel to Europe.

Britain’s fishing fleet would no longer have automatic access to EU waters, or be allowed to land their catch in EU ports in the event of no deal, the notices said.

There were also series of warnings for animal breeders and owners, including the fact that anyone taking a horse to an EU member state would need to have “an appropriate ID document and appropriate health documentation”.

Exporters of animal feed, or genetically modified food, were warned they would “need to be established in the EU or EEA, or have a representative that is established in the EU or EEA if they wish to trade in the EU”.

Rail passengers were told to brace themselves for potential disruption to cross-border train services, including the Eurostar service.

The DExEU said: “We are seeking mutual recognition of all necessary documentation so that operators from the UK and the EU can continue to operate cross-border services without disruption after exit,.”

But it added: “Passengers using cross-border services are responsible for ensuring that their insurance and ticket terms and conditions are sufficient to cover possible disruption.”

The no-deal notices also reiterated that all existing free trade agreements brokered by the EU, including with countries such as Canada, Japan and South Korea, would no longer be in effect for the UK, but stressed that the government was seeking to replicate those agreements “as far as possible” and “as soon as possible” after Brexit day, otherwise World Trade Organizations tariffs would apply.

The notice said that trade changes would “depend on ongoing discussions with our trading partners”.