The Escalating Crisis of Health and Safety Law Enforcement in Great Britain: What Does Brexit Mean?


This paper explores occupational safety and health regulation in Great Britain following the UK’s exit from the European Union. In particular, the paper focuses on the credibility of regulatory enforcement. The prospects raised by the UK’s exit from the European Union have long been part of a free-market fantasy-even obsession-of right-wing politicians and their ideologues. As the UK’s relationship with the EU is recalibrated, this will present right-wing opportunists with a new rationale for undermining health and safety law and enforcement. The paper uses empirical evidence of Great Britain’s record in health and safety law enforcement to evidence a drift towards an extreme form of self-regulation. It deepens this evidence with a detailed analysis of key international policy debates, arguing that Brexit now raises an imminent threat of the UK entering a ‘race to the bottom’. The paper concludes that the 2021 EU/UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement may enable the UK to evade its formal health and safety responsibilities under the treaty because of the lack of the prospect of significant retaliatory ‘rebalancing’ measures. Should minimal health and safety requirements cease to apply in the post-EU era, then the UK Government will be free to pursue a system of self-regulation that will allow health and safety standards to fall even further behind those of other developed economies.

Authors: Andrew Moretta, Steve Tombs, David Whyte
; Full Source: International journal of environmental research and public health 2022 Mar 7;19(5):3134. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19053134.