UK : ‘No-deal’ Brexit advice to be published by UK government
The UK government will begin advising people, businesses, and other groups about how to plan for the possibility of leaving the EU without a deal.
Ministers say publication of the first batch of documents will tackle what they call “hair-raising scare stories” about a no-deal Brexit.
They say reaching a deal with the EU is the “overriding priority” but “we must be ready to consider the alternative”.
The EU has already produced 68 notices on “Brexit preparedness”.
Labour said a no-deal outcome would be “catastrophic” and a “complete failure by the government to negotiate for Britain”.
The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019, but the future relationship between the two sides has yet to be agreed.
In recent weeks there have been more warnings about what a no-deal outcome might mean for the UK.
In a speech delivered as the advice documents are published, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab is expected to say a good deal is in sight but “we have a duty, as a responsible government, to plan for every eventuality”.
“These technical notices – and the ones that will follow – are a sensible, measured, and proportionate approach to minimising the impact of no deal on British firms, citizens, charities and public bodies,” he is expected to say.
Warnings about leaving without a deal have included:
- the group representing hospitals and ambulance services in England warning of possible “stockpiles and shortages of medicines and medical devices”
- police chiefs warning of a risk to the public if the UK loses access to EU-wide crime databases
- the farmers’ union saying some farms could be “on the brink of collapse” without frictionless trade after Brexit
- Bank of England governor Mark Carney describing a no-deal outcome as “highly undesirable”
- Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt saying a “messy divorce” would lead to a “fissure in relations between European allies that would take a generation to heal”
Pro-Brexit campaigners have described the warnings as “Project Fear” – saying the UK has nothing to fear from leaving without a trade deal and falling back on World Trade Organization rules.
On Tuesday Mr Raab said: “As you will see when we set out our plans, some of these hair-raising scare stories are very far from the truth and I look forward to explaining the context on Thursday.”
He also said EU nationals living in the UK would be entitled to stay there even without a deal in place.
In his speech, he will say the documents will provide “information and guidance” aimed at the “smooth, continued functioning of business, transport, infrastructure, research, aid programmes and funding streams”.
In some cases the UK will take “unilateral action” to maintain continuity whatever the EU does, he will say.
Many of the “challenges” presented by no deal would also affect the EU, Mr Raab will say, adding: “For our part, if the negotiations fail, we will continue to behave as responsible European neighbours, partners and allies.”
Last month, the European Commission said the UK leaving without a deal in place would mean there would be “no specific arrangement” for EU citizens living in the UK or for UK citizens in the EU.
It also warned that increased border controls would mean transport between the UK and EU was “severely impacted”, with the possibility of “significant delays”.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox recently said the likelihood of failing to reach a deal was “60-40”.
And Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned that without a change of approach there is a “very real risk of a Brexit no deal by accident”.
Labour’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer said a no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic”, warning: “If the publication of these documents is just a crude attempt by ministers to dress up the severe consequences of a no-deal Brexit as somehow acceptable, the whole exercise will be pointless.
“A no-deal Brexit would be a complete failure by the government to negotiate for Britain. These documents should not distract us from that.”
The Liberal Democrats said publishing the documents was a “vain and desperate attempt” to make the government’s Brexit plan look good.
The British Chambers of Commerce said businesses had “waited too long for answers to some basic questions around Brexit” and had been “particularly frustrated by the lack of clear guidance”.
Director general Adam Marshall said: “Our test for the government’s ‘no-deal’ notices is straightforward. Do firms now have the clarity they need so that they can continue to conduct business both here at home and across borders on 30 March 2019?”