As you read this, the UK will be on the verge of leaving, or will have left, the EU.


It officially happens at 11pm (midnight European time) on 31 January 2020. That moment is legally called “Exit Day”, and, whether you are happy or sad, your rights as a consumer will in future be determined by UK law.

That means the UK Government is free to reduce them without checking if the EU will allow it to do so.

It will also be free to enhance them – just as it was while we were in the EU. Although Exit Day is 31 January, all the rights and freedoms that come with EU membership will continue unchanged until 31 December 2020, during what is called the “implementation period”.

So if you plan to visit or travel in EU countries this year,nothing should change.

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No visas or extra documents to drive or travel will be needed and the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will continue to be valid.

The UK and the EU will spend this year negotiating how things will change from 2021. Any change will probably be slow.

Some EU laws, like the absolute right to return goods ordered online within 14 days, originally came from the EU. But all member states had to enact that right in their domestic law. The UK did that in the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Changing this would be a big step.

Other EU laws have what is called “direct effect”. The EU passes what is called a Directive and its provisions apply directly in every Member state.

For example, your rights to compensation if a flight leaving the UK is delayed more than three hours come directly from an EU Directive. They also apply if a flight to the UK arrives more than three hours late on an EU carrier. These laws will not stop applying in the UK on Exit Day or even at the end of 2020.

That is because the moment we leave the EU, eight million pages of every EU law and court judgement will be incorporated into UK law.


All that law will continue to apply here unless and until the Government or the UK Parliament changes them.