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Brexit letter to the PM: consumers must be represented

Brexit letter

In a joint letter to the Prime Minister, Which?, Citizens Advice and Money Saving Expert have called for a cross-government working group tasked with getting the best possible deal for UK consumers in the Brexit negotiations.

Dear Prime Minister,

The British people’s vote to leave the European Union has raised many questions about the future of trade, business, the financial markets and British workers’ rights, to name just a few. The Government is discussing all of these issues openly and publicly, with various forums being announced by Government ministers.

Yet an economy is nothing without consumers. Despite this, the UK Government is still to make a substantive statement about the role consumers will play in its vision for a successful Brexit. Less than a third of consumers currently think they will be represented during the negotiations and this must be addressed.

A vast range of consumer rights, safety and quality standards, and enforcement regimes is founded in EU legislation. These rights and safeguards are woven into our everyday lives, and can often be taken for granted. They range from having access to a basic bank account, assurances that food and electrical products are safe, to seeking redress when buying products across borders.

It is therefore vital that core consumer rights and protections do not fall by the wayside during discussions to leave the EU, any future trade deals with the EU and other countries, as well as in our future domestic framework. This will safeguard UK consumers from any potentially negative effects of Brexit, while taking advantage of and maximising any opportunities.

We are calling for a cross-Government high-level working group focused solely on securing the best possible deal for UK consumers. This is imperative for the economy and our communities, and we are ready and willing to help you achieve this.

Yours Sincerely,

Gillian Guy
Chief Executive, Citizens Advice

Martin Lewis
Founder, Moneysavingexpert

Peter Vicary-Smith
Chief Executive, Which?

Your view

Are you confident that the Government can protect your consumer rights in the Brexit negotiations? What protections would you like to see for consumers?

This letter has been printed in The Times today on page seven and a copy of the signed letter can be seen here.


I wish that this letter had been put up on the website before it had been sent because I would certainly have been in favour of not sending it and would not wish to be associated with it.

As a leaver, I am appalled by the antidemocratic, authoritarian leadership of the EU and the way that its over-weaning bureaucracy has gone into overdrive; issuing evermore laws, rules and regulations. This mass of bumf if an affront to our democracy and the red tape is a drag on the economy and together with the Franco-German axis does our country no favours. Germany does very well out of this arrangement because its exchange rate is kept at an artificially low rate. Germany’s exports are therefore under-priced and suck in money from the surrounding countries to the detriment of the southern European countries. Any one of these southern states could go pop at any time because the sticking plasters applied to their problems are too makeshift and flimsy. If Greece goes belly up, it is so small that the problem is solvable, but if Italy’s very shaky banks go bust because of the straightjacket of the Euro – a distinct possibility – the Eurozone will not be able to cope.

Mikhail Gorbachev said something to the effect that he could not understand Europe. Just as the USSR was breaking up, the Europeans were setting up a similar soviet style system in the west. However, just as Russia over-reached in the East, the EU, because its politburo of non-elected leaders will not behave democratically and take instruction for its people, is being pulled apart at a rapid rate.

We need to get out of this downwardly-spiralling, decaying megastructure whilst we still can.

Let’s look at the bigger picture, the costs of somethings may go up but on the other hand the costs of other things, such as food, may go down. May and Co should be allowed get on with the negotiations and get the best deal – after all – what is best for the country in the long run will be best for the consumer.

Well written Charlie from Cornwall.

When we went into the EU our consumer rights were better than now! Our UK kite mark was stronger than any EU mark. Our food regulations were tighter than those in EU (Not to mention all the silly anti sausage and bendy cucumber regs EU has) Our government can be trusted, I believe, to keep our food safe and our procucts safe. One only has to travel to Europe to realise their electric sockets, pavements etc are far more dodgy than anything in UK. Please stop scaremongering. The Government will get us out. We will loose red tape – hooray! Food will be safe – Horse meat in Pies – only happened because EU can’t or wont track it properly. We should get our fisheries back and our fishing water should be free of Spanish trawlers that flaunt the rules anyway. We Brits are a polite nation who queue nicely and try our best to obey the rules. Our Goverment is British and Proud to be so – let us allow them to get to work! I have no doubts that some EU rules will be kept – the sensible ones and the rest we will abandon – that what we Brits have always done anyway! Let us get behind the Government. Brexit is happening and we must all be patient and hear what is being decided before we start to panick! The house of Lords (Love em or hate em) is there to moderate any sillines or outrageous behavour in parlimentary rulemaking – I trust they will moderate Brexit and see that we get a fair deal. There are so many opinions on who should do what, and what “I” want, that we should really step back and stop assuming the worst and just be a bit chipper that what most of us voted for is happening and it will be handled in the best way for all of us. Not all of EU is Bad and not all of it is good. If we are clever about this we can get a good deal. The French and Germans are P***d that we are leaving. They will calm down. Negotiations will be reasonable and if not we will probably stamp our feet and say up yours! and leave anyway and refuse to pay any silly fines – because they are silly.

Now I wait for a barage of coments! that will be fun.

You obviously have not read the letter. It is not asking May to call off Brexit which you seem to think is the case. May cannot be trusted to look after the interests of consumers and, as important, employees. There needs to be proper accountability so that May’s cabinet does not become a British Politburo!

Pam Dewar says:
29 March 2017

Same here

Jim Saunders says:
29 March 2017

Well said and well observed. Now one only has to think about horse meat in supermarket burgers why because the EU made it possible

Lawrence says:
29 March 2017

Sums it up perfectly

You have been watching too much Yes Minister, there are no silly regs about bendy cucumbers, there were are series of rules on standards, primarily so that consumers, food manufacturers in particular, need to know what they are buying, just like us low level consumers. A bendy cumcumber doesn’t go through a machine, it jams it up and makes a mess. The rules just gave classes to foodstuffs, so a Class A cucumber was “straight” and Class C were bendy, there is nothing wrong with that and means we know what we are buying, food companies want Class A so their machines don’t get covered in green goo, simple really.

Yet again the made-up fantasies about the EU are trotted out. The EU never tried to ban bendy bananas, this was purely an invention of the anti-Europe media. As for the notion that the French and Germans will “calm down”, this is pure wishful thinking. They are perfectly calm now, they just understand that Brexit is an existentialist threat to the EU and if the EU is to survive, they have to make sure that no other EU nation attempts it and this means that they have to ensure that the UK is worse off out of the EU than in. The balance of power is totally on their side. Their trade with the UK represents 6% of their trade, 45% of ours. They can easily afford to lose UK trade, we absolutely cannot afford to lose theirs. You don’t have to be a genius to see where the balance of power lies in this equation.

One of Mrs May’s threats is to turn the UK into an offshore tax haven for the worst kinds of businesses, with a bonfire of employment, consumer and environmental legislation. As consumers and citizens of Planet Earth, we should be very very afraid of this outcome.

Full marks to Which? for making sure our rights are protected.

I would like to know why you consider the electrical sockets etc are more dangerous in Europe than they are in the UK? The Europeans have used RCDs (Residual Current Devices) and circuit breakers on their electrical systems for years. In the UK we have only started to use these devices in preference to fuses in recent time compared with the Europeans. Clearly, RCDs and CBs are better and provide a safety to life which a fuse will never achieve.

jim says:
29 March 2017

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Simon Turner says:
29 March 2017

How on earth was the EU to blame for the horsemeat in Tescos products? You do realise that leaving the EU will still leave profit-motivated businesses to get their products from wherever is cheapest?

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That’s the first practical and level headed statement I have read. And I applaud your backbone.

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Steve Riley talks a lot of sense. I was a Remainer and just hope Teresa May will be sensible and keep good regulations and protection for all of us remain or leave.

Simon Turner says:
29 March 2017

Sad to see you’ve swallowed all the lies.there is no bendy cucumber EU legislation. Your popular press made it up, the same as they have been making up stories about the EU since 1970s.
And by the way consumer and environmental protection has never been stronger than now and this is squarely down to the EU. Do you remember the 70s? You really want to go back there?

Gandalf says:
29 March 2017

The European plug socket doesn’t have an earth, they are two pinned plugs, live and neutral. Probably why they had to introduce RCD’s.

Hope you are right(doubt it a lot).They blunder on the blind leading the blind.

The Tory government have already stolen many powers from our Local Authorities eg. education, reduced spending etc and they are now taking further power from Europe after a sham referendum to provide a cloak of legitimacy. Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely said Lord Acton. We should all watch out at what the government is doing.

Gandalf says:
29 March 2017

But European legislation hasn’t stopped MRSA in Danish bacon has it?

Charlie, If you think that the EU have gone over the score with too many Laws etc, just wait until the Tory Scroungers scrap all EU laws and introduce their own, which will include NO HUMAN RIGHTS WHAT SO EVER. There is a talk of Henry VIII type Laws in the pipeline which will be fine for those who Have, but for those of us who have not, it will be like Hell on Earth.

Anne says:
29 March 2017

Well said. I totally agree.

Anne says:
29 March 2017

Spot on Brian.

Ken BRUNTON says:
29 March 2017

Roger is exactly correct. I am an Engineer and have traveled in Europe a lot. Makes me laugh when I hear British people, who have probably never visited Germany and/or France etc., claim that French plumbing is awful and that 110v electrics are crap.
Not true! British plumbing is crap and French sliding earth plugs are considerably better than the simply dreadful 13amp British power plugs.
I have had many arguments with Frenchies about many issues. But I speak their language; their Engineering is good, really good, and they are extremely pragmatic and make us look like amateurs. Take a look at their roads and their railways. They outclass us.
Should we remain within a group such as this? Damn right! And we are still British, the British who putatively saved Europe, twice(?), and whose language, English, is probably the Lingua Franca of the World.

I see that Charlie has sucked up all the cliches about the EU but he does not seem to have read the letter!
It does not express any opposition to leaving the EU.
It does not even suggest terms for Brexit.
It only asks that citizens’ rights are protected during the leaving process.
A lot of laws will require rewriting and many employers and manufacturers are manoeuvring to ensure that, in the rewriting, protection for consumers and employees are watered down. Unless you have such a vested interest in boosting your profits at the expense of the majority, it is hard to see why anyone would object to the letter.
Mrs May has shown signs of the ‘antidemocratic, authoritarian leadership’ that you are appalled by. It hardly seems the moment to allow her to ‘get on with it’ without some oversight to ensure that the rights of citizens are not sacrificed to corporate greed.

Ken, I support your broad opinion but I am surprised that an engineer thinks that the French or Germans use 110v electricity!

Sarah says:
29 March 2017

Yes, Ken, and the word “putatively” has its origins in Old French & Latin!

GrahamS says:
29 March 2017

By the way, the original post from Charlie was talking about democaratic principles, but I don’t consider it democratic that we didn’t elect T. May, yet she gets control of our future! The running of the EU IS democratic, it’s just that no one took time to explain the mechanisims to people.

We have never elected a prime minister. We vote for MP’s and the leader of the party with the highest number is asked by the Monarch to form a government. In 2016, the leader of the Conservative Party quit, he stood down as prime minister, a new leader was chosen by the party, and she was asked by the Queen to form a government. All perfectly constitutional. Other ways of governing countries are available and the opposition certainly does it differently.

George Taylor says:
1 April 2017

I’ve never read anything so stupid in my whole life! Does Charlie know any history? Both my grandfathers died in WW2. Would he like to put a price on that? Do you know how many men’s names are in the War Memorial in my village? Unbelievable.
Living in Cornwall – you attach the word Cornwall to your name – I wonder how much you believe in democracy. Your village? OK. Your neighbourhood? Your county? Your region? Your country – England? Your collection of 4 countries – the U.K.? What about your continent – Europe? And what about the world? Any rational person can see that appropriate government is needed at every level. If the government is not up to scratch then we have to fight to improve it. Not destroy it, and take an 80 year step back in history. The problem with Greece, apart from all the obvious ones, is that the UK blocked further integration of the EU, allowing the EU to properly help Greece – and other countries that have got into a hole for one reason or another. Helping each other is a 1000x cheaper than the alternates.
The small minded “nationalists” are going to take my EU rights and passport from me. Absolutely outrageous. Hitler took Jews german passports away from them without their permission. The future of the world has not been written yet, and the world can move backwards as well as forwards. It is easily done, and the way is usually led by small minded selfish people, trying to protect or improve what they believe is their little patch of the world. We are only alive for few years – we should be thinking 500 forward. We all have to work together.

Have you any evidence that the UK kitemark was stronger than EU quality marks? German engineering has always been a beacon of high standards. Vorsprung durch Technik?

The mark is issued by an accredited test laboratory to show compliance with an EN standard that is common to all EN countries. It does not matter who issues the mark.

Allen – I am not sure who you are addressing with your comment – I can’t see who referred to the UK Kitemark and claimed it was superior to the European Standard – but there are no degrees of compliance. Things either do or don’t comply with the applicable Standard. If they do, they carry the appropriate mark, and if they don’t, they cannot be sold within the European Union or the European Free Trade Area. There is no reason why a manufacturer cannot make a product that exceeds the Standard in various ways but its certified compliance with all the requirements of the Standard is the critical factor.

I think the letter to the Prime Minister is a timely reminder that the interests of consumers are vitally important and need to be given full and proper attention. In particular they should not be used as a bargaining chip to achieve some other objective. Whether one is a pro-leave or anti-leave voter, or didn’t vote either way, there can be no denying that our relationship with our closest trading bloc is of paramount importance to consumers. I think Peter Vicary-Smith’s letter is a sensible prompt for the process Charlie from Cornwall has set out in his final sentence. I think it would be silly to let this opportunity pass without putting down a marker for consumers’ interests; bear in mind that it is addressed to the UK government, not the EU. It is also an important statement to the British people that shows that Which? is active on their behalf. A cross-government high-level working group on consumer concerns can only be a good thing; it’s as much [if not more] for the 48% as for the 52% in my opinion.

Jim Saunders says:
29 March 2017

But the British Government can easily maintain sensible consumer rights after Brexit. We do not need to ask the EU if we are allowed to keep a law they made… come on get real

What on earth makes you think this British Government will maintain sensible consumer rights after Brexit? They don’t give a damn about consumers, only big business.

Tom Wildy says:
29 March 2017

The Governmnet plans to transfer EU rules to be part of British legislation if appropriate. The EU has been traduced over the years by, for example, Local Government officers blaming the EU for unpopular UK legislation, either through ignorance or malice. Then there is the propaganda: undemocratic – we elect MEPs to the European Parliament whose function is to hold the Commission to account; overbureaucratic – 32000 civil servants to the UK’s 460000; straight bananas = a myth dating back to the start of the Common Market relating to the Class I banana – Germany liked straight bananas, France liked smaller curved bananas. both agreed but the myth of ‘straight bananas’ carries on.

Of course there is the aid given over the years to deprived areas of the UK, many of which voted to leave. I suppose ‘foot’ and ‘shot themselves in the’ will sink in eventually as these often desolate areas become more so. Not much chance of the UK Government chipping in on this.

Finally the European Court of Human Rights, not part of the EU, works to support the Charter of Human Rights developed by W S Churchill. Even Article 50 was written by British jurists.

To paraphrase the song ‘you won’t know what you’ve got til its gone’

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It is the same now as before the vote. The remainers in most cases try to put forward logical reasons to remain in the EU. The die hard brexits, most of whom have withdrawn to near oblivion, suddenly emerge again with rhetoric about scaremongering, getting our country back and getting rid of EU Laws. However the getting our country back is rarely defined and the EU Laws not specified. I have heard those who put forward remain evidence called “failed politicians” I suggest the brexit politicians are referring to themselves as they are not in government having to manage brexit. We should be in the EU fighting to change its ethics and unnecessary laws and saying “No” when needed. Refusing to accept edicts that do not comply with our values. We must now, also, be aware that many people who voted to leave because of immigration issues only, will be hugely disappointed.

Jim Saunders says:
29 March 2017

But the PM is all for leave and she is not a failed politician is she?

geoff says:
29 March 2017

no just a un elected one

Charlie from Cornwall is spot-on. The EU is a dysfunctional organisation.
It has more to worry about than the departure of the UK, viz. it’s own survival.
It should have remain purely as a trading block and not a political union.

This seems a rather weak and probably ineffectual letter that will be filed away as it makes no constructive proposals. In practice product safety for example is underpinned by international and European standards to which we, through BSI, contribute. If we were to abandon those standards (which we won’t) we could not trade internationally.

I’d be much more impressed if consumer groups dealt with existing consumer problems properly. Such as Whirlpool (18 months later and what have Which? actually achieved?), Amazon and 2-pin plugs, Sony Z Xperia broken screens, for example.

We have the Consumer Rights Act – offering better terms than the European equivalent – and yet how are we advised to use it? (don’t waste your time was Which?’s advice in dealing with Whirlpool). Yet it offers up to 6 years of possible redress, requires products to be safe, durable, repaired or replaced without unreasonable inconvenience to the consumer; I’ve quoted it 4 times to retailers with success. So why are we not helped to use it? And why have Which? not used it against businesses like Whirlpool?

We have the other traditional consumer guardians – Trading Standards. decimated by local authority cuts to the point when they seem generally ineffective for ordinary consumers. Whirlpool again exposed the weakness in the system. And for many consumers they cannot be contacted; you are diverted to a 3rd party – CA – who don’t keep you informed or have a database of complaints (when I last asked). So perhaps discuss this forcefully with government.

And who in government represents consumers? A small part of a minister among many other duties.

So I’d like Which?, and other groups, to do less talking and do more work – putting constructive proposals together using knowledgeable and expert contributors in an objective unbiased way – forget the tabloid headline approach. In other words, action not words. And on present issues.

I assume that Which? engages with government routinely to discuss our problems. They spend £12.8 million of our subscriptions in “promoting consumer interests”. I hope they’ll make good use of that money. Perhaps they will keep us regularly informed on their progress?

Thank you

Well said, Malcolm. I agree with all that. We all know such letters are just posturing but it keeps the name in the public eye. Meanwhile, let’s get on with all the problems you have mentioned and many others while we still have some EU regulations in place to rely on. There was talk over the weekend of yet another reckless bonfire of European red tape rather than its incorporation into UK law. I think the fervour to unpick every strand of the EU is at risk of getting out of hand and I sincerely hope Which? will stand up to any attempts to undermine our existing safeguards. Apart from anything else, now would be a good time to appoint a full-time consumer affairs minister – one with a Caledonian approach to our collective interests would be best; the present lacuna is a disgrace.

I think the old British Kite mark had much higher standards than the EU mark. The trade deals with the EU were a problem for small businesses as they put big tariffs on sales outside the EU. This is why I went from a remainer to a leaver.

The Kite Mark is simply BSI’s mark to show compliance with a standard, which for decades have been international – almost all “British” standards are adoption of European Norms, and generally based on International ones. So the Kite Mark is just the equivalent to any other international test house’s endorsement.

The kite mark has been there all the time.

Please can we just let the P.M and her team get on with it!
As if having the SNP sniping away was not enough.
It is very foolish to assume that leaving the EU will plunge us all back into the dark ages, rather it will free as to do what is ‘right’ for the people of the UK. The People have spoken and will again if need be.

Unfortunately, I think there are lots of people with political leverage who would just love to take us back into the dark ages and we need to be wary.

At long last Britain has got rid of the shackles of Brussels. I hope your Government will safeguard our rights and not be drawn into paying more for goods from Europe. Should they impose rediculous tariffs on Britain I hope we have the nerve to increase the tariffs from Europe twice as much. Let us show them not to truffle with this great country like the Germans did (to their cost) back in 1939.

No, Derek, not a single ‘shackle’ has yet been got rid of and you will have to wait two years before you see any go. But I’d like to see a list of ‘shackles’ that you would like to see go. I’m pretty sure you would find making such a list quite difficult.
Anthony Camacho

I would like to see a committee of consumer from a cross section of the public formed to debate which laws to keep and which laws to repeal. Not a committee of lords and the rich people of our society.

Whilst I understand that Which and the others felt the need to issue this letter to the PM I think they fail to have trust in the PM’s intentions on behalf of GB plc. or, are they, like so many other Remainers, merely trying to tie the PMs negotiating hands in an attempt to ultimately block our exit from the EU. If so I think they will fail but it may well cause sufficient havoc for the PM to have no option than to walk away and leave us with a ‘No deal’. Is that what they want? I seriously doubt that.

But is it Europe causing the problem ? Were we asked were we wanted to join fully? I only signed up for the trading/social aspect in my 20’s now 70 .Who was responsible for that ? The reason a lot of people want out is to do with Governmental flaws& irresponsibility .The ,out of control controlled entry & the legal .I don’t believe that Europe is the big bug bear i have realatives in France and Eire that if the other countries do not have similar problems does this not prove it? More likely is it that our public services & Charities have not been funded appropriately according to numbers with standards & ethics ,neither are they run by those with responsibility .They now defer to Call centres like the Corporate on policy & procedures with no democracy or discretion like the very people who are supposed to be negotiating eg: sent a letter re: this to Martin Lewis Resolver who rather than forward to him have excluded me from the site [ did they hack my computer?] just like the NHS & countless others copying each other now franchising out.When do Surveys & have Constitutions they still don’t listen ! Even the Universities & MPs ??!!

Sarah says:
29 March 2017

Trust a politician, Howard – then why are you a Which? member?

Jim Saunders says:
29 March 2017

The British Government does not need to be told, how to pass laws protecting consumers, by a bunch of unelected eurocrats. Our negotiating with the EU has nothing to do with consumer law. Your silly letter to the PM is pointless! Once we leave and start the great repeal, our government and civil servants will be able to spend more time creating home grown legislation and less time tied up by EU red tape
Get a grip and stop wasting my time with your trivial rubbish!

Alan says:
29 March 2017

I support this letter. The Government approach to Brexit is being hidden in private with no public consultation or input from our elected MPs. I have no confidence that our negotiators have any concern at all for protecting British consumers or citizens whether living in the UK or in the rest of the EU.

Mrs May is an excellent Prime Minister , she must be trusted to do a good job for everybody and allowed to get on with it without any opposition .

Anne Whitburn says:
29 March 2017

If Jo Public will be footing the bill, we have every right to be involved. At least to know what is being proposed, But then of course we have to rely on the honesty of politicians. Oh dear!!

Roger says:
29 March 2017

I do not wish to be associated with the letter that has been sent to The Times. I think we should let the government get on with the negotiations and get control over our laws and regulations. As a country we need to present ourselves as strongly behind the PM and show ourselves to be prepared to accept ‘No deal’. If we are seen to be arguing amongst ourselves the EU will believe that they can force a poor deal on us.

Consider one of two things: Either you work for a business/institution (employee) or you are in charge of one (employer). If the former, would you have any right to influence confidential negotiations that your boss was engaged in for the future of the business? If the latter, would you be happy having your employees telling you how you must behave at any confidential negotiations you are engaged in? As disappointing as it is, we have given our politicians/civil servants a Brexit job and we must trust them to do it. I agree, it is extremely hard to trust a politician, if not downright damn nigh-on impossible. But that is the dilemma, we the public have created it, we must abide by it.

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I don’t work for the government but they are supposed to be working for us!
As their ’employers’ I think we have every right to ensure they are looking after our interests properly. Some delegation to employees is good management but only when those employees have proved their competence and their loyalty to us employers. I am not sure that Theresa has done that yet.

I love the Which magazine the way they focus on people and their rights is refreshing even the BBC is not to be trusted now with their obvious bias

Jim Saunders says:
29 March 2017

Consumer law has nothing to do with negotiations. When we leave, we will adopt all EU laws and the great repeal act will abolish all the idiotic ones one by one. We do not need to ask the EU if we can keep a 14 day cooling off law or a full refund policy for a defective item. Don’t be so ridiculous. It is common sense and British MPs are quite capable of protecting consumers rights.
All this has nothing to do with negotiations and this letter is a waste of to. Honestly the remain think tank seems to be thin on scare stories now! Instead, Think of some issues that the EU has caused for consumers and send that on a letter. Horse meat in burgers, bananas being thrown because they don’t meet standards.

Regarding this letter, may I ask who they envisage should be on this proposed” High Level Working Group” ? Could it possibly be Gillian Guy, Martin Lewis and Peter Vicary-Smith by any chance? More self serving posturing I think Which!