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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.


The Brexit trade negotiations between the UK and the EU are not the place to muddy the waters with consumer rights – does Which? push such matters every time we sign a new trade deal with China? – the time to discuss UK consumer rights is after the Brexit negotiations have finished and our Government is pushing through the Great Repeal Act, and deciding what previously EU laws to keep enshrined in British Law. At that stage, I am keen to see most of our consumer rights, labour protection, and health and safety laws retained; but am eager to see some ridiculous EU rules such as the limiting of kettle and vacuum-cleaner power, and the restrictive German rules on bicycle lighting rejected – many of which only protected German industry at the cost of innovation.

I sincerely hope that the government and major importers are in touch with what was once the commonwealth preferential trade area. Canada, Australia and New Zealand, India and many parts of Africa all used to trade with the UK. Bread was cheaper, and India was our clothes “factory”, we could afford a leg of lamb and those lovely little Ffyfes bananas from the West Indies….. and in our turn goods manufactured in the UK were exported . I don’t think that we will lose at all. Our trading partners will be those who were our allies for the 6 years following 1939!

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We need to put the “Great” back in front of Britain. We where the Country that stood alone in Europe against the N***s. We where the Country who sailed and recaptured the Falkland Islands. Where was the rest of Europe then???? The French sold Exocet Missiles to our enemy, and the rest of Europe took side with our Enemy who had invade our Sovereign Islands. The European Union have now asked us for an “Exit Fee”; wake up Europe! We have bailed you out of Two World Wars which we should never got involved in. Then when we the people of this Island want to leave you try to hit us with Exit Fee! We did perfectly OK up until 1972! Without being part of your every increasing Club; so now leave us alone; let us have a trade deal or we will ban all your goods from being imported into our Country and trade with our Commonwealth Partners the USA, Russia and China……………………

Just on a historical point, James: France did not sell Exocet missiles to Argentina after the war over the Falkland Islands commenced; the Argentine ships were already equipped with the missiles. However, there were secret negotiations between the UK and French government to ensure that no more Exocet missiles were sold to Argentina and British agents went round the world secretly buying up all existing stocks to prevent them being transferred to Argentina. So far as I recall Argentina received no military assistance from any other European country during the Falklands War. This has nothing to with Brexit but it helps to stop falsehoods proliferating and inflaming the atmosphere.

I would like to have assurance that after 13 years of working hard, paying taxes, NI and never claimed benefits in UK I won’t be given one way ticket to go back where I came from. Also I would like to make sure I will be treated fairly likeBritish people when they have a children, lost job or need any other help or support.

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To be honest, I do not, or ever have had much faith in our government of the day, regardless of the colour of their politics. I seem to remember that France owed us millions after the beef ( or was it lamb?) wars. Things just seemed to have died a quiet death this, is just one thing the government was very quiet on It has always seemed to me that Europe shouts “Jump” we then ask “How high & when can we come down again?”

Europe is a fabulous place to most Brits where sun, sea, sand, sangria and culture are less than an hour away for less than £20. It is entirely politicians who have turned it into a dogs breakfast.
Billions of £s have been printed and given away to greedy bankers to no one’s benefit. Lets give greedy politicians all the £s they want and move on.

I have no confidence that consumers will be borne in mind during the Brexit negotiations. Ordinary people are never considered in these matters: The EU was not created to ease the lives of ordinary people. Governments never care about them either or the present one as well as the previous one would not be carrying out a policy of austerity to ‘bring down the deficit’ that ordinary people/consumers did not help create while those that did get richer with government help. The Labour Party MUST be at the Government’s elbow at every turn demanding that the ordinary people in the country are kept at the forefront of its mind rather than seeking to ease things so that Big Business can get bigger at their expense.

I just want to be fairly treated, and hope that oap gets better. Both myself and my husband are sick of living on the beard line.

Terry Dennis had it spot on. We still want to be linked to Europe as friends and trade partners but not hidebound by the ruling clique supported by the Blair, Mandelson and Campbell axis. Go to it Theresa we are behind you all the way.

As a Remain voter, I am not very optimistic about the Brexit negotiations; but obviously it’s still worth voicing our concerns.

I want the same rights in UK law as we had under EU law. If they have to be filtered then only after the 2 year period.

Roughly, half of voters argued to leave the EU, half argued to remain. Whichever way you look at it, half of these people were ‘wrong’ in their argument. And you think these people, these ‘consumers’ of debate and fiscal awareness, should be let loose to inflict even more tragedy on the government? And if ‘consumers’ matter so much, why did Which issue the letter to the Prime Minister before seeking our representation and views? From what I can gather from other comments, most members of Which do not support the letter, so how about a new call and a fresh demand that Which withdraw the letter and issue an apology to the Prime Minister (Yes, sorry, that also grabs at my throat but the letter really should not have been sent) and members of Which.

Rod Davies says:
30 March 2017

I am deeply dismayed at the alacrity with which the government is approaching Brexit. Already, as a consequence of the market reaction, component prices are going up due to the fall in the value of sterling and these price increases must be passed on to the consumer who has not had a comparable pay rise.
The EU has created an environment where in almost every sphere of life the public are better of, from food labeling to cleaner beaches. The government proposes that UK will enter into all sorts of trade agreements with non-EU nations. In these trade agreements there must be reciprocity where non-EU producers have access to UK markets for their products in return for UK having access to theirs. Some of the barriers that exist today to non-EU products entering the EU, and virtue of that UK, is that these products do not conform to EU standards. I am genuinely concerned that the UK government will agree to the dilution of product / food safety legislation allowing currently prohibited goods into UK. In return UK will be allowed to export its products to those countries. Once UK assents to this, there is the possibility that dangerous foodstuffs and components will enter the UK supply chain. If this happens UK products may be barred from the EU unless manufacturers can demonstrate through expensively audited processes that the goods are compliant with evolving EU regulations.
Since the day UK joined the EU there has been a concerted media campaign to defame it where possible and hold it responsible for things over which it had no influence. We are all responsible for this mess, but those institutions and individuals that knew better and knew that the EU had delivered to UK safety, security, wealth and peace previously unknown, had a duty not just to tell the truth, but to challenge the dishonesty. We are not simply throwing the baby away with the bath water, we are going back to a time when we didn’t have bathrooms. It is not yet final and it is still the duty of everyone concerned to articulate clearly what the EU provides for us and the consequences for us if we continue with this march towards oblivion.

It is a pity, Rod, that these arguments did not persuade the public when the vote was taken, but the fact is they didn’t and we are where we are. The only way forward now is through a positive outlook.

This is all speculation. Those who criticise the vote ignore the fact that many voters will have formed an opinion of the EU over the years that coloured their decision – for or against. Product safety standards have been based on international standards for very good reasons – common standards enable us to trade widely.

Did the EU deliver wealth to the UK or was it the reverse – we contribute substantially to its coffers, in an organisation that poorly controls those to whom it then passes the wealth on.

My decision was marginal because it is a hugely complex issue.However, this Convo was about protecting consumers’ rights and we keep reverting to topics perhaps more appropriate to earlier Convos on Brexit generally. Perhaps these comments should be redirected and we should focus on how consumers are best helped?


Derek says:
30 March 2017

I agree that Consumer Rights etc. that ” Which” is campaigning for are essential but I’d like to add further comments as follow.

As an 80 year old life long Conservative voter I would be VERY disappointed if a Conservative government were to bow to the pressure of large businesses who may wish to curtail the REASONABLE rights of employees in pursuit of furthering their businesses, purely for the benefits of shareholders and executives.

It would turn me away from voting for them. HoweverI would not vote for Labour as there are too many extreme left wing influences in their ranks who seem dedicated to destroy democracy in Britain.

Derek says:
30 March 2017

I agree that Consumer Rights etc. that ” Which” is campaigning for are essential but I’d like to add further comments as follow.

As an 80 year old life long Conservative voter I would be VERY disappointed if a Conservative government were to bow to the pressure of large businesses who may wish to curtail the REASONABLE rights of employees in pursuit of furthering their businesses, purely for the benefits of shareholders and executives.

It would turn me away from voting for them. HoweverI would not vote for Labour as there are too many extreme left wing influences in their ranks who seem dedicated to destroy democracy in Britain.

HelenA says:
30 March 2017

To all the other concerns about Brexit I would like to add another major one; our wild-life, nature, & general ecological laws & safeguards were made, partly by our government & partly by E.U. member states, as we are leaving (reluctantly) what is to stop more erosion of them as Big Business wants to turn outdoor spaces into industrial sites, fracking etc. They will have carte-blanche to do as they please.

The Environmental Protection Act and the Town & Country Planning Acts won’t disappear Helen. These are our major protections and any government that threatened or attempted to limit their effectiveness would not last long.

People are in danger of losing their rights and protection under current laws. eg. rights to clean air and water and other environmental and safety protection. Also, there is a danger of the UK, again, trading fishing rights for business advantage, and making dodgey deals in other areas, such as GM food, to the disadvantage, and against the wishes of ordinary people.

Steve says:
30 March 2017

The PM now has a job to do in negotiating the best deal possible for all the citizens of the UK. The public voted to come out of the EU so it’s about time everybody including dear Nicola started pulling together and let her get on with it and stop trying to create diversions and divisions that weaken the negotiating powers.

Firstly, stop blaming Russia for everything.
Stop printing money, and put Nato, that U.S. toy for ten year old scallywags back in the box permanently.
Stop our blood money for killing Yemeni children and women.

Anybody can shoot fish in a barrel in Mosul. Disguisting.
If our boys are brave, let them get on the ground and fight Isis, the people we created with the U.S. and are still fooling our people about our rotten role.

There is no honour or intelligence here. Not for Britain, or its poor deluded youngsters growing up under crass government, media, particularly including the rotten BBC.

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Forget Brexit, it is now a reality. Creeping Nationalism is the biggest threat the world faces today.

The Which? Letter was bad timing. Historical action taking place in yesterday’s Parliament was more relevant to the facts relating to consumer affairs and highlighted some of the difficulties that lie ahead within the next two years.

Today would have been a more appropriate time for Which? to submit the Brexit Letter with people better informed to voice their opinions without some the emotional responses we witnessed on this website yesterday.

Back in June I commented that the referendum had split the nation. I agree with Beryl about the threat of nationalism.

I think there is no more of a “split” in the country than there are over other differences of view and circumstance that most of us take in our stride – whether it is your political persuasion, independence, social position, immigration, the Iraq war…………………. Attempts in the past to incite behaviour on the back of such issues have failed. We live in four countries that make up the United Kingdom. Our best bet is to work together to present a united front to Europe to get the best deal we can. Then, those who wish to separate can do so on a sound basis.

The only regions that voted to remain were Scotland, Northern Ireland and London. Perhaps all three could become independent if they think their best future lies in the EU? although even they are “split”.

I agree with you, Beryl. It would have been better, and more courteous, not to have anticipated the Prime Minister. We now live in a world where show-boating and grand-standing have become the modus operandi of self-important organisations.

I also dislike nationalism which is a sinister concept.

As if I hadn’t had enough of Brexit yesterday, I watched the TV interviews by Andrew Neil with, first, Theresa May and then Jeremy Corbyn and I was rather impressed by both of them. Unfortunately I had to put the bins out so did not have time to watch the leaders of the Lib Dems, UKIP and the Green Party. Did I miss anything?

Hi Beryl and John, thanks for your comments about the letter. I hope that you can appreciate that there was a lot of planning that went into this given the three organisations that have sent the letter – as the hard copy of the letter will show you we actually sent it to the PM on 22 March and the letter was then published in The Times on Tuesday. The response to this letter has been overwhelming and teams are working to respond to comments.

In the context of Brexit I suspect I am a “nationalist” because I want the best possible outcome for the UK. Others will be looking after their self-interests and so should we.

It depends how far you take that. Beryl’s observation referred (I think) to the increasingly fragmented nationalistic tendencies we’re seeing; they’re both divisive and potentially dangerous. People make the worrying assumption that somehow those in the UK are special, instead of realising that we’re all part of the same species. In that context I see myself as part of the human species, and not as Welsh, Scottish or English.

Hi Lauren, the content of the letter is not so much an issue as the timing of it. It was posted just before midnight on 28th March when most people had retired for the night. (I was still online).

I spent the best part of yesterday watching the BBC
Parliament Channel and witnessed the full historical event. John you missed the bitter and angry responses coming from the SNP who expressed their determination to proceed with Article 30. It was Nationalism at its most defiant and opportunist, using Brexit as a way to gain Scottish Independence, breaking up the UK Union, absolutely vital to Brexit negotiations, in the process. You only have to look at past history to witness some of the negative outcomes of Nationalism, or perhaps for a more recent example, of Mr Farage on YouTube addressing members of the EU Parliament!

Watching the full parliamentary debate where most of the issues were discussed by democratically elected parliamentarians (love ’em or hate ’em) was encouraging and allayed some of the fears shown by commenters on Which?Convo yesterday.

Lauren, I hope you are now feeling better from the ‘flu.

Thanks, Beryl. I do take your point. We tired to publish this first thing on Tuesday, but were slightly delayed. It was live by about 2pm though. I’d agree that the discussion would have been better if it had taken place on Tuesday or before than on Wednesday.

It’s a sign of the times that simple administrative things like sending a letter have to be so stage-managed these days. I sometimes think it’s what saps the energy and productivity of this country for little overall benefit.

Neville Chamberlain found that the letter he had wasn’t worth the paper it was written on after his stage-managed return. “Actions speak louder than words” but require a lot more though and effort.

There is a time and place for a stage-managed letter, I think, and the piece of paper prime minister Chamberlain brought back from Munich in September 1938 was at the time considered to be an epoch-making announcement [even though Hitler had privately dismissed it as being of no further significance and it certainly didn’t interrupt his over-running of Europe].

The jubilant reception given to Chamberlain was not accorded to David Cameron when he came back from Brussels with a fairly empty list of unfulfilled demands and that was where our recent history starts and why we are where we are.

I somehow don’t think the tri-partite Brexit Letter is going to be of much historic significance in the long run, even though I still think it was a good thing to do. It’s making a drama out of it that I dislike.