What do the Brexiteers actually want? Six EU laws which might change soon

Rob Waugh
(Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters)

One of the biggest complaints from Remainers after the referendum campaign was that Leavers had no idea what they wanted.

But with Article 50 now triggered, the question of what Leavers want is – gradually – being answered.

A YouGov poll of 2,000 people this week showed that people who supported Brexit tended to support measures such as the return of incandescent light bulbs (along with much less likely ideas, such as the return of the death penalty).


But what is actually likely to happen? The Great Repeal Bill will annul the 1972 European Communities Act (ECA), which means EU law is automatically in force in the UK.

This means Parliament will be able to modify EU regulations – but the Government is likely to focus on measures which will have popular support.

So what could change?

Incandescent bulbs

Bafflingly, this is an emotive subject for a lot of Brexit voters – after old-style incandescent bulbs were phased out under an EU directive in 2009.

Thirty percent of people who voted for Brexit want to see the bulbs return, so it would be a crowd-pleasing measure (although not great for the environment.

The bulbs were replaced by LED and halogen lamps, which many felt had a ‘colder’ feel than older incandescent bulbs.

VAT on energy bills

Under EU regulations, the government charges VAT at 5% on household energy bills – and is now allowed to reduce that figure.

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson promised during the referendum campaign, ‘If we leave the EU, fuel bills will be lower.’

Temporary workers’ rights

This may be unwelcome news to those working in the ‘gig economy’, but the rights of temporary workers could change after Brexit.

Under EU law, employers are obliged to pay temporary agency workers at the same rate as permanent employees under the Temporary Agency Workers Directive.

Open Europe claims that this costs the economy £2.1 billion per year.

Straight bananas

[Photo: Getty]

For some, the issue of bendy (or straight) bananas was a useful comic illustration of how barmy UKIP voters were – for others, it was an illustration of the crazy red tape of the EU.

Funny or not, Britain may wish to free itself from regulations such as Commission Regulation (EC) No. 2257/94, which specified specific standards for bananas at wholesale.

The regulations specify that bananas must be fit for human consumption, not rotting – and also without ‘abnormal curvature’.

Working hours

Some business leaders are keen to see the EU’s Working Time Directive repealed – which limits the number of hours an employee can work per week to 48.

But Theresa May said in January, ‘As we translate the body of European law into our domestic regulations, we will ensure that workers’ rights are fully protected and maintained. Indeed… we will build on them.’

Efficient appliances

Does the EU really insist that our toasters are low-powered – meaning that, as one UKIP MEP claimed, toast was never ‘done’ properly?

While that’s not true – or at least not yet – the Ecodesign Directive does aim to improve energy efficiency (in products such as fridges), and toasters were earmarked for inclusion.

At present, the Directive covers 40 product categories, from boilers to TVs, which are thought to be behind 40% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions.

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