The UK government on Thursday published a series of documents detailing what could happen if it fails to reach a Brexit deal with the European Union.
Britain is due to leave the EU in March next year, or at least begin a transition phase towards leaving at that point. In recent weeks, there have been concerns that the country could crash out of the 28-nation bloc with no deal amid infighting within British Prime Minister Theresa May’s divided Conservative government about how close an economic relationship to seek with the EU.
Britain’s minister in charge of negotiating Brexit, Dominic Raab, said he remained confident the two sides would reach a deal, but said that he was releasing the documents to help people and businesses prepare for any disruption caused in case of a no deal.
What do the papers say?
- Britons will have to pay more to make credit card payments in the EU.
- Businesses on the continent could be cut off from investment banks in London.
- Britons living in the EU could lose access to their UK bank accounts.
- Companies trading with Europe would face new paperwork to cover customs and safety declarations.
- Britain will unilaterally accept some EU rules and give EU financial services firms continued access to the UK market.
- The UK will recognize EU standards for medicines. This means that drugs from the bloc won’t need to be re-tested in the UK.
- Contingency plans to avoid medicine shortages.
‘Plan for every eventuality’
The first 25 papers cover everything from financial services to nuclear materials. They say “people and businesses should not be alarmed” by the planning.
“We have a duty, as a responsible government, to plan for every eventuality,” Raab said. “To do this, we need to have a sensible, responsible and realistic conversation about what a no deal situation really means in practice.”
The opposition Labour party’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said the talks with the EU were “going badly” and the no deal advice was a sign the government is “moving into panic mode.”
A European Commission spokesman said: “We are working constructively to reach a deal. It is also clear that the withdrawal of the UK is going to lead to disruptions regardless, with a deal or without a deal.”
More papers in coming weeks
The documents failed to address the issue of the Irish border, one of the trickiest parts of the ongoing negotiations. The government said it would “take full account of the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland” in its no-deal planning.
Britain’s government plans to release more than 70 papers in total in the coming weeks. The papers will be closely scrutinized by industry to see just how disruptive a no deal Brexit could prove. Some of the more hardline Brexit advocates in parliament have accused the government of trying to scare people into supporting whatever deal it negotiates.
Analysts fear that a failure to agree exit terms would seriously damage the world’s fifth-largest economy as trade with the bloc would be subject to tariffs and regulatory barriers.
ap/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)