Uncertain times are ahead for the cycling trade, and its customers, following Brexit, according to industry experts.
From changes to the cost of exchanging products and services, which could be passed on to customers, to the effect of Brexit on safety regulations and workers’ rights, and even infrastructure, it’s impossible to predict exactly what will happen, but some informed guesses can be made.
Following June’s Brexit vote Halfords, which possesses an estimated 20-25% of the UK cycling market, lost almost a quarter of its share price in a few days, CyclingIndustry.News reports.
According to the industry news site, brands who were previously considering investing in the UK seem to be getting cold feet, saying they’d be looking into costs and shipping before making a decision. It says suppliers are estimating a 10 to 15 per cent rise in goods prices, thanks to exchange rate changes. This could well be passed on to the consumer, as well as necessitating efficiencies within the bike industry.
Free trade with Europe will remain unchanged over the next two years – and that’s on the assumption Article 50 is triggered. In the meantime, CyclingIndustry.News says the Government will decide on import tariffs, while negotiating with the EU the price we will pay on goods exported from Europe. Although Swiss, Norwegian or Turkish models could be adopted, it is believed this won’t be possible within two years.
Meanwhile, the UK won't be at the negotiating table when changes to regulations and standards are discussed. One example of where this could be problematic is if, say, the UK wanted higher speed limits on e-bikes, and the EU didn't.
CyclingIndustry.News cites the following scenarios if the two year deadline could be managed:
EEA Membership: Compliance with EU directives for the most part would be highly likely. The UK would not be at the discussion table when drafting these. On the whole, suppliers will spec bikes to a Euro standard, with changes only adding to cost.
The Swiss Model: Again, the UK would have no say in drafting regulations in this free trade model. Compliance would remain highly likely for the majority, if not all, of goods.
Full on exit: As a non-member the UK becomes free to amend or replace legislation. Whether in most cases this would be necessary in the cycling world remains to be seen, but with the evolution of product not slowing, the industry could lobby the DfT for separate rules on things like e-bikes. The likelihood, however, is that things would largely remain unchanged, in part due to the view of entering a bilateral agreement with the EU in five to ten years time.
BikeBiz’s Carlton Reid says a faltering British economy could mean people shun their now more expensive to run cars for bikes. If they’re doing that they’ll want safe cycling routes.
However, Reid believes cycle infrastructure won’t be a priority – not only, does he point out, do Brexiters tend to be climate change deniers, and so uninterested in "green" transport, they are also keen on “localism” - played out in the Local Enterprise Partnerships whose forays into cycle infrastructure that we have come across have been bizarre and lacklustre to say the least - and cuts to transport funding, roads aside, of course.
Between 1995 and 2000 £12.2m of £207.4m funding for the National Cycle Network came directly from the EU. Sustrans is the charity that looks after the National Cycle Network, and its CEO, Xavier Brice, told road.cc: “Since July 1977 Sustrans has adapted to all sorts of changes and funding climates, through recession and growth, and we are confident of adapting to the new political environment.
“At the very heart of our work is an aim to connect communities, creating spaces which everyone can access and enjoy, such work is even more crucial than ever.”
For those that work in bike shops, things could change, too. Employers’ obligations will still stand for at least two years. However, after that, these could well be renegotiated. The Independent ran a pre-Brexit story, which listed workers’ rights that exist thanks to EU legislation, among those discrimination based on gender, religion, hours worked, age or disability. However, as it points out repealing most of these rights is never going to win votes. The most likely to be hit would be the working-time regulations, according to the paper. It's important to note the UK introduced its minimum wage independent of the EU.
When it comes to regulations around safety, there's no way of knowing for sure, although the signs things will get pricier are, unfortunately, there.
As CyclingIndustryNews put it:
“With the dust still far from settling, coming at the topic from a purely news angle has been difficult with much uncertainty in the markets, political upheaval adding another layer of complexity and no one scenario a certainty as Britain begins two years of intense negotiation.”
To read CyclingIndustry.News’ full analysis click here.