The boss of Which? has launched a stark warning that a catalogue of consumer rights we take for granted could be under threat from Brexit.
Peter Vicary-Smith accused MPs of neglecting consumers in the Brexit negotiations and urged them to ‘act now’ to avoid a ‘disaster for the everyday British consumer’.
Politicians have until next March to nail down a complex web of legal protections that cover food, energy supply and overseas travel.
Risks: Safety of products could be jeopardised by officials’ higher workloads
The Government’s paper on Brexit last year raised the issue of consumer protection. It said watchdogs should continue to have access to information about unsafe products, including medicines and food, after Brexit.
But Vicary-Smith warns that negotiations so far have focused on trade and movement of people and workers. ‘Every day we are protected by laws which, for the most part, go unnoticed,’ said Vicary-Smith.
‘We want to work with Minsters and with businesses to stop important consumer rights from being diluted or, worse still, lost entirely if negotiations with the EU go badly wrong. At a minimum we should fight to maintain what we currently have in place,’ he said.
Concerns raised include:
•Food safety standards under threat once Britain leaves the EU.
•Energy costs rising without the security of supply from other EU countries.
•A no-Brexit deal grounding flights.
•Product safety jeopardised as Trading Standards and competition authorities face higher workloads.
•Phone calls abroad getting more expensive as roaming charges are reintroduced.
•Britons may no longer have have cheap and easy access to healthcare abroad.
There has been a growing clamour from industry bosses raising concerns that Brexit could blow a hole in Britain’s legislative framework.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has repeatedly claimed that flights to and from the EU are likely to be grounded in April 2019 if there is no firm Brexit deal
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has repeatedly claimed, for example, that flights to and from the EU are likely to be grounded in April 2019 if there is no firm Brexit deal.
Last month the European Regions Airline Association warned there had been ‘no visible developments’ in negotiations. In December, the House of Lords asked for more clarity on how the Government will ensure consumer rights will be ‘protected and enforced’.
Other groups have made a string of warnings over potential price rises for consumers.
Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe said earlier this month: ‘The impact of closing the borders for a few days to the free movement of food would result in a food crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen.’
Others warned of a fall in quality of goods and services should labour shortages rise and that some products may not be available at all unless customs rules and agreement on the Irish border are in place in March.
It has been speculated that supply of key drugs might reduce unless we remain part of the European Medicines Agency.