Europe will miss the enormous regulatory input of the UK after Brexit

Throughout the debacle that was the Brexit campaign much of the Leave rhetoric suggested that getting out from under the rules imposed by EU legislation was one of the three big reasons to vote leave… remember the one about the “bendy bananas”? The truth is, the UK has contributed in no small measure to the body of legislation that today protects Workers and Consumers, Trade and Agriculture, Food Standards and Water Quality, Fishing, Airspace and Personal Privacy. These and a host of many other pan-European initiatives (both rules and principles based) have underpinned the success of the collective.

The UK has been a leader in the legislative process. Their presence in the forum where ideas and principles are forged into regulation, directives and decisions has been immense. One of its unseen benefits is the fact that most of the preparatory work was done in English, and that much of the commentary and open discussion around what was being proposed was reported in English. The rest of the world understood what was being considered and had access to the dialogue as it happened. For some this provided opportunity for input, for others it was a chance to prepare for the outcome, and for a growing number it influenced their own law-making decisions.

Post Brexit, the largest English-speaking nation in the EU will be Ireland; with a population of over 4 million and an obvious size-limited capacity for contributing to legislative innovation and policy development. On that front, the UK will be sorely missed.

Over the last two years, despite Brexit shenanigans, regulation has passed through UK parliament that represents, in risk terms, a seismic shift in how organisations that interact with consumers will be governed. The Senior Managers & Certification Regime moves the UK towards the “comply or go to jail” model of governance and accountability adopted by the US and away from the softer “comply or explain” model that applies in most EU countries. Ireland’s Central Bank is poised to model it.

The UK’s participation in and contribution to the conversations that have informed the development of European legislation has been immense; striking a balance between societal risk and business risk at the European Council, Parliament, Commission and, particularly, at civil service level where the agreed principles are turned into implementable rules.

Britain outside the EU will co-operate in the implementation of sensible legislation and I am sure it will continue to contribute to the ongoing global rollout of AML and Counter Terrorist Financing measures and to the completion of the E-Privacy project. Europe will no doubt survive without the UK. The balance will be different, particularly in the informed early stages of proposed legislative reform, and in the general oversight of the institutions of the union. But, with a strong voice missing, for the rest of us there are likely to be more “straight bananas”.

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