The Licensing Act 2003 is the main legislation for licensing in the UK. However, as with most modern UK legislation, this is closely tied with EU laws. As a result of this, we've been asked a number of times about the potential impact of Brexit on licensing laws in the UK.
Much like with anything Brexit related, there are a lot of unknowns here, but we'll do our best to give you an idea of what may happen to UK licensing laws over the next few years so that you can be fully prepared to deal with anything.
Minimum Unit Pricing
Minimum unit pricing has been subject to a lot of discussion in the past few years, with Scotland recently attempting to introduce a minimum price per unit into legislation and some local authorities introducing this on a voluntary basis.
Currently, EU law forbids minimum unit pricing being introduced as it is breaches free trade regulations. As a result of Brexit, this discussion will now surely come up again during negotiations, with Scotland still being keen to introduce this law to combat problem drinking.
However, the Government has stated they want to maintain all free trade benefits with the EU and remain part of the single market. To do this, they will be expected to obey EU rules which encourage free trade. The extent to which this particular issue is focused on will surely depend on how involved with negotiations Scotland is, as they have been the main drivers of this so far.
Electronic Licensing Applications
One EU regulation which has massively benefitted potential license-holders is the one which dictated that all Licensing Authorities should make electronic applications available.
The ability to complete your applications online has made the process much simpler, and was only enacted by the Government after the EU intervened. This means that in a post-Brexit world the UK could simply choose to abandon this and force people back to older methods.
It does seem unlikely that the Government would choose to roll this back purely because it's made things easier for everyone. Licensing Authorities could also choose to continue offering the ability to submit applications electronically regardless of any decision if the demand to continue this method is there.
Realistically, Brexit shouldn't have too much impact on UK licensing laws over the short-term. The main focus now will be on ensuring the best free trade deals rather than changing licensing laws which have been impacted by the EU. Depending on the terms negotiated, this could potentially change in the long-term, but this cannot be predicted with any degree of certainty at present. The best thing you can really do is keep a close eye on everything and ensure you're ready to adjust quickly to changes in laws.