Legal implications of the UK Referendum on EU membership for corporate accountability work in the UK

Monday, February 20th, 2017

By Deborah Doane and Dr. Jennifer Zerk

This paper sets out the findings of research commissioned by CORE in September 2017, to consider the legal implications of Brexit for corporate accountability work in the UK. There are an estimated 13,000 pieces of regulation that will be impacted by Brexit. While not all of these are relevant to corporate accountability, many EU laws are intended to raise standards of corporate behaviour and provide strong protections for workers, consumers, and the environment.

Brexit poses some major challenges to future work on corporate accountability, as the EU has, for the most part, been a positive force in pulling up standards in key social and environmental areas.  The outcome of our negotiations with the EU, in particular whether or not we have a “hard” or a “soft” Brexit, will determine the extent to which current laws from the EU are at risk.

At the same time, Brexit has opened up political space for discussion on potential improvements to trading relationships so that these support, rather than undermine, human rights, labour rights, environmental rights and corporate accountability more generally.  The political fallout from the EU Referendum in June 2016 has also focused attention on unfairness and inequality which in turn has created momentum around the need for corporate governance reform, to provide a greater “voice” for workers and people affected by poor business practices.  The government has indicated its desire to increase its influence on the world stage – will it seek to lead from a human rights or environmental perspective in this regard? The path is currently unclear.  The extent to which improvements can be made will undoubtedly require strong campaigning from civil society in the UK. Both sector-specific approaches, as well as corporate-wide opportunities, are now open.

Download the paper here