Licensing & Brexit
The Licensing Act 2003 itself is, of course, an Act of Parliament rather than a piece of European Legislation. However, there are a number of areas which may be affected by Brexit, but I have to add a large slice of proviso at this point, because any impact is subject to negotiations between the Government and the European Union. These negotiations will no doubt focus on which pieces of European Legislation the Government will continue to give effect to, if it is to secure access to an unrestricted single market.
Licensing Authorities should offer the facility for electronic applications to be made to them, as part of the EU Services Directive. This was a Directive which the Government had to give effect to by introducing legislation. Whilst legislation has been enacted, and there wouldn’t seem to be any good reason to stop the facility being available, Westminster could decide to abandon the principle. The likelihood, even if it did, is that Licensing Authorities would continue to offer facilities to lodge applications electronically, either through their own portal or Gov.uk‘s because it is easier for everyone.
Were a minimum unit price to be introduced, it could be universally introduced through a Mandatory Condition on a Premises Licence. With Brexit in a couple of years’ time, the United Kingdom will no longer be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, (so the recent decision on The Scottish Government’s attempt to introduce a minimum price per unit could be ignored). However, if the Government wants to enjoy the benefits of a single market, then it will almost certainly have to play by the EU rules in terms of observing the principles of free movement of goods. Whilst any decision of the European Court of Justice may not be binding, we may see legislation introduced which would provide for a similar outcome to restrict minimum unit pricing.
The Government has already made a commitment to introduce legislation which requires an individual applicant for a Personal Licence or a Premises Licence, to provide evidence that they have the right to reside in the United Kingdom. Brexit will not affect this. Whilst not directly relevant to the Licensing Act 2003, of most interest to the licensed trade will be whether or not citizens from the European Union, who are already in the United Kingdom, are going to be allowed to remain here. Should the Government decide that any EU citizens moving here after a certain date are not legally entitled to remain (one would think that unlikely), then one can imagine a considerable shortage of staff within the leisure and hospitality sector.
Deregulation and the Cutting of Red Tape
The most noticeable consequence of Brexit, is that what limited Civil Servants time exists (and there have been cuts in civil servant numbers over a the last few years at the Home Office), is going to be dedicated to sorting out our exit over the next 2 or 2 ½ years, rather than concentrating on introducing additional measures to cut red tape. One example which immediately springs to mind is the introduction of Community and Ancillary Sellers Notices, which is unlikely to be high on any Civil Servant’s Agenda.
So, in summary, it is likely to be more of the same, with little impact on the Licensing Act 2003, at least I can say that with some certainty, for now!
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