A couple of months have now passed since the Referendum to Leave the European Union (EU), but it seems that much of the finer details as to exactly what this will mean may not actually be ironed out until Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is triggered (and it seems, at least at present, there is no immediate rush to do this). This could lead to a high degree of uncertainty for lawyers and litigants alike, given that a high proportion of the UK’s law currently emanates from the EU.
In particular, in the field of Personal Injury litigation, a considerable number of EU based regulations (along with treaties, having direct effect in the UK) and directives (often implemented into UK law by way of statutory instruments) are regularly used. It remains to be seen exactly which of such provisions may be removed from UK law as a result of the Leave result.
For example, numerous EU provisions cover accidents which occur abroad, including protecting victims of uninsured or untraced drivers (under the Motor Insurers’ Bureau scheme) who suffer an accident in the EU. The current regime can also allow an English victim in a car accident to pursue a claim in England, even if this took place in another EU country. Will such a victim have to seek redress in the Court of that EU country in the future? There is also EU legislation governing accidents on aircraft (among other modes of transport), further assisting victims in allowing them to often be able to pursue a claim in the Court of the country where they are domiciled.
Accidents at work had also long been regulated by the Health and Safety at Work 1974 Act, which has been used as a vehicle to adopt a number of Regulations on safety in the workplace, many deriving from EU provisions. That said, civil liability under that Act and the accompanying Regulations has already essentially been abolished by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, although breaches of the same currently continue to be cited as evidence of negligence.
It therefore remains to be seen how great an impact “Brexit” will have upon such areas of law. Undoubtedly there will be some changes, as has already happened in legislation governing accidents at work. However, at a time of such uncertainty it may also unlikely for there to be significant appetite for wholesale legislative changes.