On 23 June 2016, the UK will hold a referendum to decide whether it will remain a member of the EU. If the UK decides to leave, that would lead to a cut-off from the EU and its (food) legislation. This might lead to new or amended trade restrictions (such as new labelling or safety regulations). To be able to timely prepare for such amendment it is good to look ahead.

Article 50 of the Treaty on the EU provides for the procedure for a Brexit. If the UK decides to withdraw, it has to notify the European Council thereof. Then, the EU will have to negotiate and conclude an agreement with the UK, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal. These arrangements will set out the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the UK. European legislation shall only cease to apply once this agreement enters into force or, if no agreement is reached, two years after the notification of the UK to the European Council (which period can be extended).

This means that European legislation will not cease to have effect in the UK until a ‘Brexit-agreement’ is in force within two years. As this period is related to the time of notification of the Brexit and extension is possible, the actual Brexit is expected to take years (even more as unanimity on a Brexit-agreement is prescribed). Until then, the legal requirements for food businesses trading with the UK should not differ between the UK and the EU, as the UK will still have to abide by EU law.