Houses of Parliament, London, UK - Photo: © Samot /

Houses of Parliament, London, UK - Photo: © Samot /

Of course, there will be many changes, but absolutely nothing has happened yet! The outcome of the British vote marks the beginning of long negotiations, and until the process is over, the United Kingdom remains a member of the Union, with all the rights and obligations that derive from this. In particular, EU law continues to apply to and in the United Kingdom until it is no longer a member.

For our cosmetics sector, it means that all existing laws, regulations and guidelines remain in place exactly as they did before the vote - nothing changes,” said the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA) in a release. “In particular, it means that all of the cosmetics sold in the UK must continue to comply fully with the European Cosmetic Products Regulation, including requirements relating to safety, labelling and the ban on animal testing.

One can imagine, once the final decision for the exit has been made, that the United Kingdom’s legislation will gradually differ from that of the European Union. It is plausible, but it is not the most likely hypothesis. In fact, it will mainly depend on the role the country will decide to play within Europe.

Finding a new position in Europe

Indeed, the reality is that the European integration process offers European States a wide range of options, in particular in terms of business relationships.

Guess where will be located the UK after the exit. Somewhere close to...

Guess where will be located the UK after the exit. Somewhere close to Switzerland or - most probably - at its own and unique place ?

The United Kingdom may, once again, become a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), similarly to Switzerland. This way, its goods would not be taxed as part of intra-European trade, and it would take advantage of the free trade agreements between the EFTA and third countries. Since the EFTA is not a customs union, the United Kingdom will still need to renegotiate its tariffs with all the countries that have not signed any agreement with this organization.

The United Kingdom might even join the European Economic Area (EEA), as did the three other members of the EFTA – Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway – to maintain the free movement of goods, services, capital, and labour (the four freedoms at the core of the single market). [1]
However, in exchange, the European legislation will need to be enforced in these areas. In practice, the British would then have to undertake to comply with what they have just rejected, meaning: the better part of European rules and standards. Or worse, they would no longer have a word to say regarding their content, since EEA members only have a right of consultation when it comes to drafting the European texts related to them.

So, just like Switzerland, the United Kingdom might choose to get its relationships with the EU sorted bilaterally, by negotiating on a case-by-case basis the clauses on the free movement (or not) of capital, goods, services, and labour. As for the Swiss, this resulted in a massive convergence with the EU.

The UK is still in Europe. We will not be relocating the country to Asia. Commerce and collaboration between the UK, EU member states, and the rest of the world will continue,” highlighted Simon Birkenhead, Europe Managing Director of L2 consulting firm. However, nobody knows what the UK’s future relationship with the EU will look like and the uncertainty is the real risk.

We will be following the developments closely to ensure we give clear and consistent advice to members as the process of an exit unfolds. Undoubtedly there will be much speculation and many will ‘jump the gun’ in saying what needs to be done and by whom,” CTPA Director General Chris Flower told Premium Beauty News. “We will avoid that to ensure we continue to give clear and sound advice in a timely manner to aid clarity and not create confusion.

As a result, the United Kingdom will need to renegotiate both the conditions of its divorce and of its new relationship with the European Union, in a form that remains to be defined. “At present, there are many possible options for this new relationship, but things will not be the same as before an exit,” the Director General of the CTPA insisted.

Loss of the gateway status

One thing is nearly for sure, the United Kingdom will no longer be the gateway to the European market for many cosmetics brands and suppliers, in particular from North America. It will no longer be considered as a first country to export to within the European Union, and it will no longer keep the Cosmetic Product Information Files required by the European Regulation, except if unlikely bilateral agreements are concluded in this regard.

Now, that’s a hard blow for many multinational companies settled in the country! In contrast, European companies surveyed by Premium Beauty News are rather optimistic. According to them, the impact on the cosmetics industry will be low due to the limited role of the country in this sector. However, a recession in the United Kingdom would necessarily affect the European market.