Earlier this week the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued a statement to confirm health and safety standards will remain the same despite any form of Brexit. The EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 ensures that, regardless of Brexit arrangement, health and safety will be guaranteed for stakeholders immediately after the UK leaves the EU.
The effect of the EU on health and safety legislation in the UK has been – and likely will continue to – be debated for a significant period after Brexit. Whilst some have previously berated the EU for unnecessarily draconian regulations, others have celebrated high standards of health and safety enjoyed in the UK by workers.
There is no arguing that the EU has been influential in the shaping of the UK’s health and safety legislation. The UK has a reputation for upholding the highest standards of health and safety systems in the world, and it owes much of this to the EU.
There is uncertainty regarding the changes that will occur post-Brexit. On the one hand, if the government decides to maintain strong free-trade ties with the EU, it is likely existing standards - and perhaps those implemented by the EU in the future – will continue to be adopted by the UK. On the other hand, some believe the need to negotiate trade deals with non-EU countries may lead to deregulation.
So far all predictions concerning Brexit have been wrong, and without a deal it is difficult to make any assumptions regarding the direction of health and safety policy. Health and safety policy will change, but at this stage a gradual divergence from EU rules is more likely.