/ Travel & Leisure

What happens to vital consumer protections after Brexit?

Many areas of our lives, including healthcare abroad, keeping our homes warm and travel rights, are protected by EU laws that need much greater attention during Brexit negotiations. That’s why we’ve launched our Consumer Charter.

Politicians have been playing Punch and Judy over Brexit for the past 18 months – and it’s true that there is plenty to fight about. Yet for all the undoubted drama, some of the most important issues affecting our lives in this country have barely been discussed.

New Brexit charter for consumers

These issues include the EU rules that ensure imported food is safe, that give us access to vital healthcare for ourselves and our children in neighbouring countries, and which give us cheap phone calls abroad. Even airline travel would, for a while at least, become extremely difficult.

That’s why today we’ve launched our Consumer Charter – and called on the government to embrace our blueprint for protecting our rights.

We want to work with ministers and with businesses to stop important consumer rights from being diluted or, worse still, lost entirely if negotiations go badly wrong.

Flight confusion

We recently contacted the UK’s five biggest travel companies (Thomas Cook, TUI, Jet 2, Expedia, and On the Beach) to see what information they were providing about the possible status of flights being booked for travel after the UK has left the EU. We found that it wasn’t clear what the consequences of an aviation deal not being in place once the UK leaves the EU would be.

This could leave holidaymakers who are booking holidays from 29 March 2019 in limbo. We want the government to make sure the same level of access is maintained after Brexit and provide clarity as soon as possible about consumers’ rights and airline obligations.

Time to work together

This uncertainty for holidaymakers is just one of the many issues affecting our everyday lives that needs to be a priority as we move closer to the date that we leave the EU. We want to work with government and businesses on these issues to help deliver a Brexit that puts consumers first.

This is not to reach a judgment about a hard Brexit, a soft Brexit or any kind of Brexit. Just a plea that the interests of ordinary consumers get the priority they deserve.

At a minimum, we should fight to maintain what we currently have in place in all areas that affect consumers. In an ideal world, we will improve the situation of consumers.

Consumer needs must come first

Which? research has shown that many people haven’t really considered any of these issues. Our fear is that some of our politicians haven’t sufficiently considered them, either. And we cannot sweep these critical consumer issues under the carpet and just expect everything to work out.

We have set out a Charter that we believe will put consumers first in Brexit negotiations and provides solutions on what can be done to improve how our systems currently work.

The Charter sets out more detailed priorities that need immediate action from government to make Brexit a success. These concentrate on the areas of consumer landscape, food, energy, travel and transition – highlighting not just the potential risks for consumers, but the opportunities to improve our existing systems as we leave the EU.

What are your views?

Do you support our Charter? What consumer issues would you like the government to address in its negotiations?

This is an edited version of an article that recently appeared on This is Money.

Comments
Alexa Lindsay says:
24 August 2018

I disagree with you, John, for the following reasons.
1) The UK tried three times to join the EEC and were successful at the third attempt in 1973. There was a referendum in 1975 as to whether we wished to continue, and the vote in favour of staying in the EEC was 67.2% (not 60%) with 32.8% against.
2) I am not sure that you can claim that ‘most ordinary voters’ saw the main reason for joining the EU as simply having access to a market of goods. There were a number of reasons, including valuing the EEC as a way of bringing countries together economically and politically to end the wars between them: this was the original aim when the European Coal and Steel Community was set up in 1950. This was also one of the reasons articulated by the Remain campaign which was important to many of us.
3) We are not a ‘virtual colony’ but one of the most powerful countries in the EU with a voice to which others have listened. We have negotiated a number of ‘opt-outs’ for the UK where we disagreed with the way things were done. We had the structures available to us within the EU to limit immigration if we had chosen to use them – but our governments did not make that choice.
4) The EU is not interested in ‘conquering us’ but in working with us. When it comes to the history of the last few centuries, Britain has done plenty of conquering of other countries itself, so we are by no means squeaky clean in this regard. Indeed, we have ‘conquered’ more countries than the rest of the EU put together.
5) We did not vote ‘clearly’ to leave the EU two years ago. The vote was very close. In many countries, such a narrow majority would not be regarded as definitive. Only 37% of those eligible to vote, voted to leave the EU. Scotland and Northern Ireland voters voted to remain. Over 700,000 British citizens who live in Europe as part of our EU right to do so were not even given the chance to vote.
I realise you may not agree with me, and I would always uphold your right to do so.

Alexa, I agree with you on every single point.
In addition the referendum was badly planned and rushed through (10 weeks?) because David Cameron wanted to silence his euro-sceptic MPs and never thought the vote would go the way it did. When Scotland held a similar referendum they allowed about a year for argument and debate between announcing it and the actual vote. Thereby all the claims and counterclaims could be tested. In our case there was only time for a bunch of dubious claims and fear campaigns by both sides which were never properly examined. We voted at the height of the panic.

This lack of preparation is further borne out by the fact that the government had absolutely no plans in place as to what to do in the event of a leave vote. They were caught completely flat footed.

We now have the situation where we should have had a clear set of understandings and treaties in place to allow us to leave in an orderly fashion, but instead it’s a complete shambles with a new set of white papers coming out saying what will happen if there is no deal. They make “Project Fear” look like a walk in the park. On top of that the Conservatives only remain on power by the grace of the DUP (and a big bribe) who want an open trade border with the republic that would breach WTO rules once we left.

I could rant on, but you get where I’m coming from.

Philip O'Connor says:
25 August 2018

The Electorate of this Country were lied to on at least two occasions by both main political parties by Harold Wilson, Ted Heath and others. Labour party workers were being misled right up to the night of one election over the Europe issue.

People at the time voted for entry to a Common Market covering trade in the main at the time not a Political Union and not a Common Currency. Charles De Gaulle continually resisted British attempts to become a member because he suspected that the British would never rest comfortably with what Jacque Delors was about to foist on the existing countries of the Union.
How right he was, the short termist remainers need to start looking well beyond the next generation and think about what would become of this Nation in fifty-one hundred years time. Those generations would be asking why we were so shortsighted to remain aligned to an Organisation run without accountability to the people of Europe.
Our original entry to Europe has always been based on a series of lies perpetrated by Politicians across the board, it continues now and it is to be hoped that the Referendum vote will once and for all be respected even at this late stage.

I’m sorry, but two wrongs don’t make a right. In any case we were not lied to about entry as the Common Market was just that at the time, a trading partnership. It didn’t become the EU for another 20 years in 1993. But we were lied to by the brexit campaign who made all sorts of promises (remember £350M for the NHS) that have proved to be false. At least the supposed lies of “Project Fear” by the remain campaign seem to be coming true with the latest set of white papers on a no deal brexit.

What is so wrong with collaborating with other European countries? Surely a united states of Europe is far better than the previous setup that brought us a thousand years of wars culminating in WW1 & 2. At least if we remain we can have a big influence on the way it’s run, outside we will have none but still have to abide by some of its rules.

Those future generations may well end up asking why we left a prosperous, united organisation to become a backwater island living in poverty. You just can’t predict 50 – 100 years into the future.

Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

Jill Brian says:
25 August 2018

I agree with Alexa and pjaj but I’m afraid I think that Philip has rather missed the point. The European Economic Community (EEC) which in the UK was known as the Common Market & was enthusiastically voted for, has never been a Political Union.
It is a group of neighbouring nations who are independent entities (with their individual parliaments) and work together for the benefit of all. By working together we can achieve far more than we can alone. We have developed common safety standards, environmental standards, common financial systems, joint scientific projects eg: Gallileo,we can trade seamlessly without tariffs between EU members, as a group we are able to access new markets, criminals do not respect borders & combined policing is easier, reciprocal benefits eg the EHIC (European health card), free movement for study, work & tourism are all benefits throughout the EU in addition to the peace & prosperity we have enjoyed as members of the EU.
I think the European Parliament can confuse people who think that “The EU is trying to rule us” and” we can’t anything without the EU agreeing”. This leads to the “Take Back Control” mindset. In fact the European Parliament is made up of representatives from all the member nations. We periodically vote for local MEPs ( Members of the European Parliament) as well as MPs. After discussion by the appropriate experts who agree the common standards (eg: financial) each government must agree before it is ratified in the European Parliament.
Thus each individual nation has a voice throughout the process.

Tony Pitt says:
25 September 2018

I think that we were lied to by the leave group, they told us lies from the start about how easy it would be, in fact its any thing but, my main concern about leaving is our food standards being lowered( chlorinated chicken, hormone injected beef from the US), and our NHS being sold off to big health companies, workers rights being pushed aside,
And all the protection that we get from being in the EU being lost, many jobs going abroad unless we get a good deal and the affect this will have on our young people in the future.

James says:
19 October 2018

This decision was made with no knowledge of the consequences that will impact on our society in a very negative way. Vote in haste repent at leisure.

Pete Willoughby says:
27 October 2018

People like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris the mop will not suffer if Brexit goes bad. They are rich and will ride the storm, but they have lied to and tricked many people into believing that Brexit will be good for the UK. I think it could well be the beginning of the end for the UK. I expect Scotland to leave the UK within 10 years after Brexit. I believe that Northern Ireland could well join Scotland. It’s possible that the Channel Islands, the Isle of Mann and even Gibraltar could align themselves with Scotland/Northern Ireland in a bid to re access the EU. England will become a little backwater. We are not Great any more and after Scotland goes we won’t even be Great Britain, just England possibly with Wales if they don’t leave as well. The decline and fall of a too proud and conceited nation because we believed the liars.

Virginia Kennedy says:
5 January 2019

Company that quality controls oncology drugs manufactured in India and then distributes them around Britain and Europe is moving it’s activities to Portugal. 50 jobs will go, drugs will have to be imported.

TM is in trade talks with India just now Virginia, if they are imported direct in the future you better check out the ingredients carefully as mistakes have happened in India using their own versions of propriety drugs from the USA .
India ignored the calls from US Big Chemical to pay them for use of their formula it meant cheap drugs which is good but not all companies there are up to EU standards.

How can anyone vote to be a member of an organisation that has had its accounts qualified for the past 20 years plus – we would not accept that for our Government, why put up with it from the EU? There seems to be no effort made to ensure practices such as invalid claims, excessive claims, not only from the MEPs but also from supposed bone fide claimants are stopped. Could it be that the EU has no desire to try and curtail ‘the gravy train’?

Also, the EU presents its accounts way past what is deemed to be a reasonable time. It is outrageous that the EU lectures Britain when it cannot even get its own house in order.

And one should check to see what the EU did to the whistleblower who reported the fact about the accounts.

The sooner we leave, the better: deal or no deal.

James I voted to stay but I agree with you the EU are no “Angels ” but if I post anything on it including transfer of “funds ” from entities to the City/ EU citizenship via Cyprus-“Golden Visas ” -bought if you are rich enough I will be accused of something .
Probably I am envious – I was “knocked back ” for a Citigold Current Account -well you can dream .
But never mind after Brexit “adjustments ” will have to be made in the City , now that breaks my heart (sarcasm ) .

DerekP says:
3 February 2019

I’m not too bothered now, as my ration book arrived in this week’s post.

Derek –that post was simply brilliant , if I could give you 2 thumbs up I would !
PS- I still have my childhood ID card from WW2.

. . . and I still have my Clothing Ration Book from 1947 with some unused coupons in it. I live in hope . . .

You could have underpants and vests then with the Utility label

I have, but they are getting to the point where I need to replace them before Brexit makes them unobtainable.

I had a Utility bed made by the makers of Army camp beds it had a black government stamp on it –not comfortable but built like a tank.

I have started to build up a food supply of—–tins -getting ready.

“built like a tank. No wonder it was uncomfortable.

I’m too young to remember rationing but I do remember being sent coupons for petrol during the oil crisis in the early 70s. They were never used. I had a Honda C50 that achieved over 120 mpg.

Should’ve got a PHEV and got over 19000 miles on a gallon and a half or so. But I remember the ’70s and they had electricity power cuts…………………. 🙁

I have some petrol coupons as well so I am well prepared. It’s my unused London tram tickets that will probably not be much use in the future. I can’t tell you how I came to acquire a pristine bundle of them.

Perhaps the dried egg and dried milk will be released from the government’s emergency stores and the Green Goddess fire engines fettled up to quell the riots.

Luckily we have enough beer, wine and spirits in stock to see us through a difficult period.

The problems in the 70s helped me realise the need to be self-sufficient and I hope that I might manage to cope with shortages. Hopefully mobile broadband will still work in power cuts otherwise I might not be able to post on W?C. :-(.

Just been emailed on this subject and signed a petition to Michael Gove/Sue Hayman -quote-

In the USA, almost all beef cattle receive hormone supplements, implanted under their skin. There are six hormones used in the US and elsewhere that are banned in the EU for health reasons – including at least one that is judged to be a significant cancer risk.
I’ve spent decades researching and writing about food policy in the UK, and I co-authored a report on the risks of hormone-treated beef post-Brexit. We found that there’s a serious risk the UK will lower our food standards to secure a trade deal with the USA – introducing an unnecessary and unacceptable risk to our public health.

It could also increase animal suffering by opening the door to high-intensity beef production systems that are associated with overcrowding, poor cattle handling and heat stress. Allowing hormone-reared beef could also mean that EU Member States would stop buying British beef as hormone-treated beef would remain unlawful there.

Leaving the EU must not mean that food standards decline and the British public are exposed to dangerous hormones. Please sign my petition calling on the Government and opposition to make a long-term commitment to maintain, or raise, current food standards. End quote.

Erik Millstone –

Erik Millstone is a Professor of Science Policy. Erik gained a first degree in Physics, followed by three postgraduate. He is one of the UK’s leading independent scholars of food safety policy. Most of his research has focused on the UK and the EU,

http://beef2live.com/story-beef-exports-country-year-date-0-109756 </I"U.S. beef exports up 12 percent so far in 2018
The United States has exported 2.63 billion pounds of beef so far in 2018, up 12.3% from 2017.
Japan is the top destination for U.S. beef exports so far in 2018 followed by South Korea & Mexico.
The United States has exported beef to 115 different countries so far in 2018”
including. 27 million lb to the Netherlands, 9.8m to Italy, 7.5m to Germany. this seems to conflict with the statement that the EU would stop buying British beef as the EU already buy USA beef. Or so it seems.

I am not commenting on the right and wrongs of hormone implanted beef but on the conclusion drawn re Brexit and a US/UK trade deal. https://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ProductSafetyInformation/ucm055436.htm

Malcom you can only draw a conclusion on previous experience which Erik found to be not in favour outright acceptance of EU food regulations , many Tory MP,s were against it.
In any case to influence HMG requires massive publicity and even then outright stubbornness and political dogma count for a lot , passiveness /acceptance gets you nowhere allowing any regime to implement more and more of its political driven policies .

The people must be heard and that in the US Bill of Rights -read the FIRST Amendment .

What do you think of battery farming -hens-cows -pigs etc ?
Have you seen the conditions -chained-bars-no space – I cant say -inhumane as they are animals but plenty of other UK groups can say a lot.

Duncan, I said it seems US beef is currently (well certainly to last year) imported into 3 EU countries.
As, presumably, the US (who are supposed to have vociferous consumers) consume large quantities of their home grown beef there should be ample evidence of any harm it causes. Perhaps someone could provide that information.

Albert says:
5 February 2019

We are in our 80’s, and consider that our standards of living were greatly improved by being members of the EU. Yes, there will always be laws that we don’t like – but isn’t that also the case with a number of our UK based laws? For ourselves, we would like to see Brexit collapse and things return to what we think of as “normal”. I cannot see any future in departing from what is factual inside the EU, and instead following a course based on fictional claims of alternative world markets waiting for us to join them.
People of the EU countries are our nearest natural cousins, and I find it difficult to understand why half of the UK people are dissatisfied with the standards and stability we enjoy by being a member state of the EU.

Nationalism Albert.
I am not condemning it as I am a nationalist just providing an answer.