CERTAINLY for lawyers, the greatest anticipation for 2017 concerns the impact that Brexit will have on the laws that, for most of us, we have grown up with.
As lawyers, we are used to working within a system where many laws are incorporated from European Union Directives. Will that necessarily continue (think soft Brexit) or can we completely do our own thing (think hard Brexit)? What will Brexit mean for our existing laws: will there be piecemeal repeal of the bits from Europe that we don't like?
As an example, let's consider employment law, perhaps the legal web that most businesses from time to time might get tangled up in.
The effect of Brexit from an employment law perspective is perhaps not going to be as groundchanging as people think. Theresa May has already said that we are not going to see workers' rights eroded and indeed the noise coming from the Government appears to be in tune with this. I cannot see there being changes to basic employment rights following Brexit, therefore. We already give enhanced holiday entitlements over and above the minimum directed by the EU, and we are unlikely to see the 48-hour working week changed or the removal of rest breaks or periods. We are unlikely to find interference in maternity, paternity and adoption rights. UK employers have been well used to such rules for many years and any change is unlikely to be popular.
Immigration on the other hand is clearly a hot topic so far as Brexit is concerned. There is immediate concern over what the rights of existing EU nationals working in the UK will be and what protections there will be for current UK migrants working in the EU. The Government has refused to guarantee the position here, but the reality is likely to be that for existing EU workers in the UK, nothing will change. Whether there are future changes to the immigration rules for new EU workers entering the UK post-Brexit will depend entirely on whether the UK wants to operate within the single market. If it does, I cannot see it getting anywhere with imposing immigration restrictions on the movement of EU workers once we split formally from the EU.
Even if we do manage to agree with the EU some restrictions, I envisage that these are likely to be light and will not be difficult to overcome.
Graham Irons is head of Employment Law at the Northampton office of Howes Percival. For further help contact firstname.lastname@example.org