Over the past years a significant proportion of my legal updates have included commentary on EU legislation or case law that has affected the haulage industry. We are now in unchartered territory and extricating ourselves from the EU is going to be a complex business, not least in regard to our laws.
The first thing to note is that the validity of these laws was not changed on 24 June 16 and will not change until the date of our formal exit from the EU. DVSA will continue with their usual investigations, issuing fixed penalties and prosecutions. Drivers and operators should continue complying as before.
However, are there likely to be any effects in the longer term? At the moment it is likely that much will depend upon the negotiation of trade deals and what compromises have to be made if we wish to continue to have access to the single market. Regardless of the outcome of trade deals, I think that it is likely that the government will want to draft their own regulations that more or less mirror current EU regulations such as Regulation 561/2006 on drivers’ hours. The current EU regulation 561/2006 contains a list of industries and activities which currently individual member states can exempt from the rules. It may be that any redrafted rules may extend the scope of these exemptions.
Much of the interpretation of EU law such as the drivers’ hours rules, currently depends upon judgments of the European Court of Justice. For the time being the decisions of such cases will continue to be binding. Once we leave the EU, I believe that European case law will continue to play a part in transport law, partly because having been members of the EU for over 40 years, there is a dearth of English case law and because if, as I expect, our replacement rules and regulations more or less mirror those of the current EU regulations, the existing EU case law gives an indication to the thinking behind the principles governing those regulations. I would expect that after we formally leave the EU, the legal status of European case law will become more akin to the current status of Scottish case law in the English courts of being persuasive but not binding.
There are interesting times ahead and the opportunity to shape the replacement regulations according to the needs of the transport industry.