In Depth

No-deal Brexit: what could change in the first 24 hours?

Planning for UK exit without deal being stepped up across Europe as 100-day countdown begins

With just 100 days to go until Brexit, both the UK and the European Union are ramping up planning for a no-deal scenario.

Downing Street has insisted that Theresa May’s “top priority” is to secure agreement for her much-maligned proposed deal before Britain quits the bloc. But Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told the BBC that if May’s plan fails to pass through Parliament, no-deal was the default option.

“We agreed that preparing for no deal will be an operational priority within government, but our overall priority remains to secure a deal,” he said.

As part of the ongoing no-deal preparations, the UK government has published 106 notices, along with one summary document, covering a range of areas from flight arrangements and pet passports to exporting organic food.

Meanwhile, the EU has issued its own communique on the European Commission’s planning for such a scenario. But in a rebuke to the “managed no-deal” trumpeted by International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt last week, the union warns that “in the event of a cliff-edge Brexit, any extensions of the status quo would apply only where the EU sees a threat to its own interests”, says Politico’s Florian Eder.

The overriding message of the communique is that the aspects of no deal “that will cause the most upheaval in the United Kingdom - that is to say, long queues at customs and shortages of food and medicine - won’t be ameliorated by the European Union”, adds the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush.

So what immediate changes might ordinary Britons see on 30 March if the UK does crash out without an agreement in place?

Transport

In the worst-case scenario, flights between the UK and the EU could be grounded, “as British airlines would have to gain permission from individual European countries to fly to them”, says ITV News.

British airlines would lose the right to operate flights between cities in the EU27, “ending lucrative routes for UK-owned carriers such as easyJet unless they have taken their own Brexit preparedness measures”, adds Politico’s David M. Herszenhorn. 

On UK roads, the consequences of a no-deal scenario could be even more devastating. Kent County Council recently warned that new customs checks on UK-EU trade could mean up to 10,000 lorries gridlocked on the county’s highways. And The Mail on Sunday reports that British motorists may face an additional charge of £5.50 to enter Europe.

British drivers currently need only their plastic UK driving licence to drive in EU countries, “but there are fears that if we leave the EU without a deal, motorists will need the International Driving Permit (IDP) as well”, says the newspaper.

Goods

Although Britain would no longer be bound by EU rules, it would have to face the EU’s external tariffs. For the UK’s consumers, that means potential price rises in shops and supermarkets “as businesses would have to place tariffs on goods imported from the EU”, says the i news site.

Consumers who buy goods from EU companies online could also lose their right to take action over faulty products, because they would no longer be able to use the UK courts to seek redress from EU-based traders, The Guardian reports.

Medicine

The chief executive for NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, has warned that “without national planning and coordination, there could be both stockpiles and shortages of medicines and medical devices”.

At present, UK companies “can trade chemicals common in medicine without a licence, however in the worst case they could be forced to obtain one at an expense”, says ITV News. There could also be additional import and export charges being passed on to customers, meaning a possible surge in the cost of everyday over-the-counter medicine, such as cold and flu tablets.

Brits abroad

The Commission’s communique states that Britons residing in the EU may not be able to stay and work in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

But the Commission “is calling on EU countries to be nice to their resident Brits”, says Politico’s Florian Eder. The report asks them to “take measures … so that all UK nationals legally residing in a member state on 29 March 2019 will continue to be considered as legal residents of that member state without interruption”, and to “take a pragmatic approach” when issuing residence documents.

However, professionals working in the EU “might also find their qualifications are no longer recognised, meaning they are no longer able to practice”, adds i news.

Even people just visiting the Continent from 30 March could lose out, as UK citizens look set to lose their right to use mobile phones in the EU without roaming charges.

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