Yes I know!
I can hear the protests from here, but none of this was my doing!
I'm not even a member of a political party; never have been, but, like it or not we cannot ignore what is going on and how Brexit could affect every Citizens life in the United Kingdom.
For over three years, Westminster politicians have struggled with the concept of referenda and how to interpret the result of June 2016.
I hear many talk about the binary choice on offer, but if you sit back and think about this "one-time" only vote, it was pretty unconvincing one way or the other!
For three years we have been treated to every granular piece of detail, making us all experts on 'taking back control'.
But throughout this phoney-Brexit period, very little has been mentioned about Consumer Rights; plenty about free movement and blue passports, but nothing on the very glue that protects every economic decision you make.
It is estimated, and it varies through different studies, that approximately 5% of UK household income is spent on leisure which includes travel.
In 2018, 60% of Britons bought a holiday abroad, some being able to afford more than one holiday!
As you buy your holiday, you will be reliant on a complex structure of companies, providing services as part of your package or providing services for independent travellers.
Many will be blissfully unaware that they are buying their travel from companies based on mainland Europe, within the Single Market.
You are now able to buy your holiday seamlessly and whizz across the skies of Europe thanks to the Open Skies regulation of the European Union.
When you are in your resort you are ferried as part of the great logistical exercise that is travel and will may proffer vouchers or tickets acceptable to all, as indeed most destinations now accept the Euro.
There are relatively few checks, and as a Citizen of the European Union, you can pass from one country to another without too many challenges and certainly no visas are required.
But all this may be about to change.
Yes I’m back to Brexit word again, but this time it is now mired in a General Election, because we apparently need to deliver a strong and a more stable government than what we have experienced over the last three years.
Politicians cry out that this is all going to be about those 'other' issues that have long since been consumed by Brexit, but Brexit is really the wolf in sheep’s clothing, waiting to pounce, shouting 'Surprise; it's really a Referendum'; has the word Referendum become so toxic that it has now become the Voldemort of politics?
But back to Travel, and Brexit, and before I talk about how it may or may not affect you, remember, that what I have to say about travel, also affects other purchases that you make; there is no hiding place.
So where to begin?
Well I think the best place to start is where I began at the beginning of 2016.
From then and for several months after the vote I was talking about the options and what they meant for Consumer Rights, so that is as a good a place to start as any!
Now by doing this, I don't want you to think that I am telling you which way to vote in the General Election, far from it.
But in the next six weeks you are going to be asked to consider a lot of different things before you cast your vote, so all I am asking you to do, is to remember how you live, what you purchase, your safety, your rights and ask yourself: ‘could I resolve my complaints without a proper set of laws or means to enforce rights?’.
During the course of the Campaign, you will hear some politicians say that they will maintain standards; that nothing will change.
That's the first thing you should think about on your Election list.
When they talk of standards, they are not talking about laws; they are talking about voluntary, non-enforceable, generally industry written agreements or standards, that a particular product or service will meet a threshold to make it acceptable to the buying public.
If standards are the new game in town, then the laws you currently have, will be repealed, on the basis that it helps industry to save costs and that they will have kept their electoral promise or returning control!
Currently Consumer Law is underpinned by the laws agreed with the Member States of the European Union, and that includes the UK, who have played a very active role in the development of Consumer Law; these laws give you the protections you enjoy in the Single Market; when new laws are made, we can all contribute or have a say in their creation.
Which brings me back to my 2016 analysis; there are three ways to look at the choices before us in the forthcoming election, because whatever the politicians say, this will in effect be the second referendum that at least half of the country has been clamouring for, so:
- If a Parliament is returned that will either cancel Brexit or the UK votes in a new Referendum to remain in the EU, then nothing will change; your rights and any future rights development will remain in tact - the UK will be a key player in the development of those rights;
- If the returned Parliament manages to pass its withdrawal agreement and we head to a Norway-style relationship, in other words remaining close to the Single Market, little will change, we will still have most of the same rights, but we won't be able to influence their development, and finally
- If a returned Parliament decides to head toward a no-deal scenario, then at the end of the transition period, we would cut all ties with the European Union, we would lose it’s Directives, Regulations, Standards and Enforcement regime, and Consumers will only have what is capable of being transferred into UK Law as their protection. Given the pressure then on the UK, it is my view that government would be attracted to the argument of creating a low-Regulation society, which means that it is likely that such laws will be substantially changed and we may find that our expectations for products or services will simply be ‘regulated’ by Standards. I would also suggest that any possibility for ordinary Consumers or Consumers Organisations to contribute to any such changes at Westminster, would be severely limited because of the imperative to create that low-Regulation society.
So, there you have it, clear and concise guidance on what is at stake for Consumer Rights.
But, if any of you listening doubt my words, then I would simply suggest that you search for all the Brexit Statutory Instruments that have been created, that will substantially affect Consumer Rights on Brexit-day; we are literally on the starting line for all the changes to come.
I accept that for some such revelations about a threat to Rights will be deeply worrying, but for others, we must accept that their considerations as to why they wish to Brexit may consist of far more fundamental issues and Consumer Rights is not one of them.
Whatever way you decide to vote in the General Election aka ‘The Second Referendum’ (that almost sounds religious), you should know that each and every vote is valuable and it is not an understatement to say that whatever you choose to do, it will chart the course for the next decade and beyond about how we view safety and rights in the products and services that we shall buy!
(The link to this Podcast can be found here)