One of the next key steps in the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union will come when May’s government introduces the Great Repeal Bill.
Parliament will then begin the daunting task of deciding which EU laws to keep and which to scrap, essentially untangling four decades of EU rules now enshrined in UK legislation.
So where will the government begin? Here’s a list of just 50 things the UK will need to work out as it sets sail on its own.
The big questions
1. A new immigration system
Immigration was a key issue in the Brexit debate. After the UK withdraws from the union, a system to allow its nationals to visit, work, study and live in the EU — and vice versa — must be hammered out.
The UK is currently part of the European Single Market, which allows goods, services and people to move freely through member states. EU citizens have the right to travel and seek work in other EU countries. Roughly 1.2 million Brits were settled in the EU in 2015, and around 3.2 million EU nationals were living in the UK, according to government statistics
But as May has made clear, the UK will no longer be part of the single market
, so this free movement will come to an end after Brexit.
The idea of a points-based system like Australia’s has been floated, with the aim of attracting immigrants with certain skills to fill gaps in the economy.
2. Asylum seekers and refugees
But that law will no longer apply after Brexit, so those countries won’t be obliged to receive asylum seekers whom the UK wants to send back. If the UK wants to preserve the principle of Dublin III, the government must negotiate separate bilateral arrangements with each individual country.
3. A trade deal with the EU
One of the most contentious points of the Brexit debate was the UK’s trade relations with the EU. A new trade deal is expected to be one of the most difficult and important parts of the negotiations.
The UK intends to leave the EU’s single market and may also leave the EU customs union, through which Britain enjoys tariff-free trade. If no trade deal is agreed upon, the UK would have to trade with the EU under World Trade Organization rules
, which could lead to new tariffs and regulations.
4. Trade deals with everyone else
Post-Brexit doors are opening for the UK to strike new trade deals with non-EU countries like the US, China, Brazil, Australia and Canada. As a member of the EU — which negotiates trade deals as a bloc — this would not have been possible.
5. Security vs. privacy
The UK government has proved nosier than most of its EU counterparts — last year, Parliament passed the Investigatory Powers Act
, better known as the “Snooper’s Charter,” which gives UK law enforcement agencies unprecedented access to personal data and requires telecommunications companies to store web-browsing histories for a year.
But the EU has strict data protection laws — including one directive, for example, that says EU countries must guarantee that information is stored or accessed only if the user has been informed and been given the right of refusal.
The EU in December ruled that parts of the “Snooper’s Charter” were unlawful
. When the UK leaves the EU however, the judgment will be rendered invalid.
6. Law enforcement
As well as being a member of Europol, the UK is part of an EU system where police forces from different countries can automatically share DNA
, fingerprints and vehicle registration data for law enforcement purposes. According to European think tank CEPS
, “Brexit means that the UK will lose access to all these information tools for law enforcement purposes.”
The peculiar and pedantic
7. Working out what jam is
In 2010, an EU directive was passed stating that jams must consist of 60% sugar
and come from a list of approved fruits in order to be classified as jam. The directive alarmed many small business owners already marketing their product as jam, who thought they would have to either change their labels or sugar content due to the regulation.
In 2013, Michelle “Clippy” McKenna, a British apple preserve maker, argued that her product was a jam even though it didn’t cross the sugar threshold — but it turned out that there was a clause in the EU rule allowing for exemptions. It was just that the UK had not included this clause into its own law
. The government has kept a lid on its plans to amend any food directives for now, although Brexit would allow the UK to can the jam rule altogether should it wish to.
8. Pig semen
Want to import pig semen into the EU? Farmers seeking to improve the quality of their pork must obtain pig semen from an authorized collection center and make sure it comes with an animal health certificate, according to another EU directive
. It’s not clear how the future of the swine gene pool will be affected by Brexit yet — but it’s surely on the minds of the farmers overseeing the 10,000 pig farms in the UK
9. Bright lights
Could traditional incandescent light bulbs make a return to high street shelves in the UK? The UK mostly phased out incandescent bulbs following an EU directive favoring more energy efficient options
in 2009. But the regulation only applied to domestic use
, and to this day the traditional light bulbs are commercially available in the UK. It’s possible Britain could bring back the bright lights after Brexit.
10. Bendy bananas
The EU rules on bananas have long been the subject of mockery. According to the 1994 regulation
, bananas must be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature,” be more than 14 centimeters in length and come in bunches of at least four. Other parts of the regulation say the fruit must be free from pests and mostly free of bruises. Bananas might be bendier after Brexit — but could they be less appetizing too?
11. Footwear labeling
Look at the label on your shoes. If you bought it in the EU, you’ll find information about the materials used to make them. EU law specifies
that shoe labels must be embossed on the footwear or attached by an adhesive label, fastener or string. Shopping for shoes after Brexit could be a much more confusing affair if the UK doesn’t find its footing with a new bill.
12. Move your horses
If you want to move a horse within the EU, strict rules apply
. The animal must show no sign of disease in the 48 hours prior to traveling and must have had no contact with horses that have an infectious disease in the previous 15 days. But countries outside the EU face even tougher rules, including additional inspections by experts from EU countries and the European Commission. A post-Brexit UK may need to negotiate a separate arrangement to avoid these stricter regulations.
13. The future of football
The rules around sporting transfers are likely to change when Britain leaves the EU — and impact one of the world’s most watched leagues
That means once Britain’s demarcation from the EU is finally drawn, footballers looking to ply their trade in the English Premier League — or in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — are likely to be subject to a tougher set of rules that govern transfers from outside the region.
The English Football Association in 2015 tightened the rules for non-EU players joining English teams in an effort to give indigenous players more chance.
So non-EU players had to have made a minimum number of international appearances for a top-50 country over the previous two years (the higher the ranking, the fewer the number of matches necessary).
Spanish superstar footballers, for example, may have to get the same work permits as Brazilians to play in post-Brexit England.
14. Safety at work
EU laws on health and safety
at work are often mocked for being excessive. Employers must make sure workers have information about the weight and weight distribution of a load before handling it, and they must organize workstations to make handling as safe as possible. The directive warns of increased risks if the floor is uneven, the load is unwieldy or the worker is wearing unsuitable clothing. Without this law, or a similar replacement, is UK workplace safety in jeopardy?
15. The future of coloring in
The EU is currently attempting to introduce new measures
limiting the amount of lead allowed in toys and items that may be chewed on by children. Some British media
characterized the proposal as little more than bureaucrats in Brussels clamping down on coloring pencils and crayons.
According to the European Chemicals Agency, the average lead content in the blood of European children is up to four times higher than recommended
. EU toy safety regulations are some of the toughest in the world
. It is unclear if the UK will stick to these rules after Brexit.
16. Noisy vehicles
An EU regulation
aims to cut down on noise pollution by ensuring new cars are a little quieter than before. In three stages, it will ban new four-wheel passenger vehicles that are louder than 77 decibels by 2026, and vehicles carrying goods will be limited to 79 decibels. It also requires electric and hybrid cars to make artificial engine noises to avoid accidents, especially involving pedestrians. The chances of Britain being flooded with annoyingly noisy vehicles after Brexit seems unlikely, but the country may not stick to such stringent rules.
17. Trade in torture instruments
EU member nations are banned from importing items that have no practical use other than carrying out capital punishment, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment
. Among them are electric chairs and shock belts, shackles, gallows, guillotines and pepper spray. Revisiting this law could make for some interesting deliberations in UK Parliament.
The nitty gritty
18. Brits abroad
At the moment, UK nationals can turn up to an EU country, flash their passports and be granted freedom of movement within the union. But once the country pulls out of the EU, this privilege could come to an end.
The government will need to negotiate a deal for its citizens and will likely try to retain visa-free travel. But the European Commission may have other ideas — it currently has a proposal on that table for a visa waiver system
, much like the scheme in the United States, to tighten screening of all non-EU members entering the EU. This would involve applying online for a visa ahead of time and paying a small fee to be given access to the zone.
19. Roaming charges
EU citizens pay relatively low roaming fees for phone calls and data usage within the EU. And the union is aiming to abolish roaming charges altogether by June this year
As outsiders, telecommunications companies will not be obliged to offer the same low rates to British travelers, and these rates may come down to what kind of deal the government strikes with the EU.
20. Cost of air travel
Air travel between EU countries has become much more affordable since the EU removed several competition barriers
, allowing budget airlines to flourish. But after Brexit, UK airlines such as EasyJet won’t be able to take advantage of these benefits
and will need to make new agreements to operate in EU airspace, according to the Chief Executive of the Civil Aviation Authority. The impact this could have on prices is unclear.
21. Air passenger rights
If you’re an EU citizen and your flight is canceled or delayed, or if you’re denied boarding against your will, you are entitled to various forms of compensation
under EU law. Even if you’re simply seated in a class lower than you paid for, you can claim up to 75% of the price of the ticket. After Brexit, UK citizens will no longer have these rights.
22. The 48-hour work week
Employers are obliged to make sure their employees work no more than 48 hours a week on average under the EU’s Working Time Directive
. Think-tank Open Europe claims
that the rule costs the economy 4.2 billion ($5.3 billion) a year. It’s still unclear whether the UK government will scrap the law after Brexit, but the Trades Union Congress (TUC) fears that working time protections could be weakened
23. Carers’ rights
A landmark 2008 European Court of Justice decision
ruled that non-disabled employees are protected by law if discriminated against on the basis of their association or care for a disabled person. For example, if an employer discriminated against a parent caring for a disabled child, the parent could claim for discrimination. After Brexit, the UK government will be free to decide on the future of carers’ rights in the workplace.
24. Equal pay for agency workers
The EU has also obliged employers to pay temporary agency workers at the same rate as permanent employees. The government may choose to revisit this rule, which Open Europe says costs the economy a further 2.1 billion ($2.6 billion) a year
25. Part-time workers’ pension
Rulings by the European Court of Justice obliged the UK to enroll part-time workers in employer pension schemes — not doing so was seen as discrimination against women
, who work part-time roles in higher numbers. It is unclear whether the government will reconsider this rule.
26. Annual leave
Under EU law, if you get sick while on annual leave, you can retake that leave at a later date and even carry it over into the following year. According to the Local Government Association
, this conflicts with UK law, which doesn’t allow employees to carry over leave from one year to the next. This conflict may mean that this particular EU regulation is scrapped after Brexit.
27. Gender equality
Under its Strategic Gender Equality plan
, the EU allocated 6.17 billion euros ($6.7 billion) between 2014 and 2020 to reach certain targets, such as reducing the gender pay gap, preventing and combating violence against women and getting more women involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The UK government will need to decide how to fill this funding gap, post-Brexit.
In his 2017 spring budget speech, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond pledged to commit 20 million ($25 million) of government funding to support a nationwide campaign to stop violence against women and girls. Hammond also reinstated the controversial “tampon tax,” a 5% tax placed on the sanitary item, which will be used to deliver an additional 12 million ($15 million) in support of women’s charities nationwide, according to Hammond.
28. Maternity leave
UK university students currently have access to Erasmus
, an EU student exchange program that allows them to study in another Erasmus country for three to 12 months. Nearly half of all UK students
who travel to study elsewhere for a short period do so through this scheme. Access to Erasmus will no longer be automatic and will have to be renegotiated.
In the Brexit negotiations, the government could try to retain this right as part of a new agreement with the EU.
In 2003, the French and UK governments signed the Le Touquet accord, which allows the UK to check passports in France and effectively situates the border on French soil. The agreement has nothing to do with EU law but last March the then French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron suggested Le Touquet could end if Britain voted to leave the EU.