26/08/2016 | John Brennan

Shieldyourself Interview — David Edwards on Brexit

brexit interview

26/08/2016 | John Brennan

Shieldyourself Interview — David Edwards on Brexit

Two months on from the EU referendum, we asked our Strategic Advisor David Edwards for his views on how the decision to leave is continuing to shape the world of regulation in environmental health.

The Sunday Times have predicted a bonfire of regulation. How do you see things panning out?

The UK government were already committed to a £10bn reduction cost in regulation and a strong deregulation agenda. Brexit inevitably means they’ll drive harder at this now, both to validate the decision to leave the EU, and in part to save money and to make businesses more competitive. I imagine that trade associations will have a much bigger role for SMEs as there will be a shift to self-regulation and it’s likely that trade bodies will represent the source of appropriate standards and monitoring.

Having a Primary Authority relationship will be key for all businesses, especially during a period of change to provide help, support and guidance. Shieldyourself are the only consultancy to be entering into a Coordinated Partnership, joining with Milton Keynes Council as the Primary Authority. Also, the Compliance Centre and Compliance Diaries will be constantly kept up-to-date in line with changes in order to take advantage of deregulation.

Post-Brexit, what do you think the regulatory priorities are likely to be?

Foremost, to be business friendly, meaning there will be more consultative work and less routine enforcement. Local Authorities and national regulators can all be expected to move to smarter and targeted enforcement, focusing limited resources where they have the most impact and where risks of non-compliance are perceived to be higher.

What this means for the average business is that data on your business will be used to assess the risks you might represent to workers or customers. For example, low FHRS scores, an inspection from the Care Quality Commission, poor OFSTED ratings, previous problems with enforcement, handling “risky” foods, working with hazardous materials and serving to vulnerable groups (e.g. healthcare) are all likely to increase the likelihood of you staying on the regulators radar. On the other hand, having a Primary Authority relationship, being transparent and undertaking either your own or third party inspections are all likely to ensure you are left to get on with your business without undue interference.

There will also be significant emphasis on supporting any business that is exporting. The UK has always been a strong trading nation, and post Brexit, that’s going to be even more important to the economy. Indeed, opening up new growing markets was one of the principal arguments for coming out of the EU, so we can expect food exporters to receive both early attention in terms of reducing EU regulation and maybe, just maybe, a little more help.

Cost recovery is definitely something to keep an eye on. The Health and Safety Executive successfully introduced a “fee for intervention” scheme in 2012, whereby return visits, enforcement action or advice is chargeable. This is costing businesses at the last count about £10m a year at £169/hour. I had a conversation with a senior Civil Servant recently who described the general approach to regulation by ”if you are a regulator then find someone who values your service and get them to pay”. The whole implication here is that regulators must demonstrate value, recover costs or face serious questions about their continued existence.

Much of our legislation in the UK is derived from European law, how might this change?

I understand that government departments are already being challenged by what is going to be removed, but let’s not forget that many EU based rules have a purpose to ensure safety and a level playing field for businesses. In any case, whether you’re trading outside of the UK and supporting Brexit or not, you will have to comply with their rules and standards. My advice is don’t throw away the EU rule book just yet and in any case, businesses must continue to comply to the EU legislation until negotiations are completed, which will be at least two years from now.

Will food raw material costs rise?

According to The Agricultural Horticultural and Development Board, raw costs will increase due to the fall in the value of the pound and this is already being reported in the media. There are also implications for those with complex supply chains, particularly if sourced from the EU, as approximately 40% of UK food is sourced overseas. The EU protected status of classic regional foods could also disappear. These sales are currently worth around £1bn to the UK economy and are of course, of vital importance to specialist suppliers. This will be a very important issue for Brexit negotiators to consider.

So in summary, the things we can look out for moving forward are:

• Smarter targeted and focused inspections where most risk exists
• Formal recognition that well-run and willing businesses need a light touch and support
• A serious effort to transfer regulatory costs from the taxpayer to the business
• A greater reliance on the Primary Authority Partnerships
• A general strategy that is supportive of business

The information contained in this blog article has been created for marketing purposes and is not official guidance and should not be used as a substitute for official food safety, health and safety or fire safety advice. Shieldyourself take no responsibility if the information in the blog article is used to form part of a safety management system or used to form part of any legal or regulatory compliance for your business. For official guidance and to engage with Shieldyourself services please do call our team on 020 3740 3744 or email sales@shieldyourself.co.uk.