‘No-deal’ Brexit? Bri­tain is pre­pared

The Witness - - NEWS -

LON­DON — Bri­tain pub­lished new ad­vice to busi­nesses and the pub­lic yes­ter­day about how to cope with the dis­rup­tion that leav­ing the Euro­pean Union with­out a di­vorce deal would cause to ev­ery­thing from data pro­tec­tion to driv­ing li­cences.

Re­cent sig­nals from Brussels have buoyed hopes that the United King­dom and the EU can agree and ap­prove a proper di­vorce agree­ment be­fore the UK leaves on March 29, though the sides are still di­vided on about one fifth of the de­tail of a deal.

But many busi­ness chiefs and in­vestors fear pol­i­tics could scup­per a deal, thrust­ing the world’s fifth largest econ­omy into a “nodeal” Brexit that they say would weaken the West, spook fi­nan­cial mar­kets and silt up the ar­ter­ies of trade.

Bri­tain has stepped up plan­ning for the ef­fects of such a de­par­ture and yes­ter­day pub­lished 28 tech­ni­cal notices cov­er­ing the im­pact on ar­eas in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards, merg­ers and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Brexit min­is­ter Do­minic Raab said a no-deal Brexit was un­likely, but that the United King­dom would man­age the chal­lenges and even­tu­ally flour­ish.

“With six months to go un­til the UK leaves the Euro­pean Union, we are step­ping up our ‘no deal’ prepa­ra­tions so that Bri­tain can con­tinue to flour­ish, re­gard­less of the out­come of ne­go­ti­a­tions,” Raab said.

The notices, of­ten a few pages per sec­tor, also cov­ered the im­pli­ca­tions for space pro­grammes, trad­ing in drug pre­cur­sors and re­port­ing CO2 emis­sions for new cars.

For the pub­lic, yes­ter­day’s notices cov­ered more mun­dane is­sues; the gov­ern­ment said Bri­tish driv­ers might need to ob­tain an in­ter­na­tional driv­ing per­mit to drive in the EU.

And for those seek­ing to travel to Europe with le­gal firearms there could be an ad­di­tional headache: the Euro­pean Firearms Pass would no longer be avail­able for Bri­tish cit­i­zens.

Both sides need an agree­ment to keep trade flow­ing be­tween the world’s big­gest trad­ing bloc and the United King­dom, home to one of the world’s top two fi­nan­cial cap­i­tals.

“Get­ting a deal with the Euro­pean Union is still by far and away the most likely out­come,” Raab said.

But Moody’s In­vestor Ser­vice said the prob­a­bil­ity of a “nodeal” had risen and such a sce­nario would dam­age the econ­omy, es­pe­cially the au­to­mo­tive, aero­space, air­line and chem­i­cal sec­tors.

The other 27 mem­bers of the EU com­bined have about five times the eco­nomic might of Bri­tain. They also have a strong in­cen­tive to deny the UK a deal so at­trac­tive it might en­cour­age oth­ers to fol­low the Bri­tish ex­am­ple.

As May tries to clinch a deal with Brussels, she is fac­ing rebels in her Con­ser­va­tive Party who say they will vote down any deal that fails to de­liver a sharp break with the EU.

Raab, speak­ing to BBC ra­dio, said he did not be­lieve May’s gov­ern­ment would lose a vote in par­lia­ment on the deal.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief ne­go­tia­tor, said on Mon­day that a Brexit deal was pos­si­ble “within six or eight weeks” if ne­go­tia­tors were re­al­is­tic in their de­mands.

Last month, the gov­ern­ment pub­lished 25 tech­ni­cal pa­pers out of a to­tal of more than 80, which de­tailed how tar­iffs, fi­nan­cial ser­vices, state aid and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals would op­er­ate if Bri­tain departs with­out a di­vorce deal. Ever since the shock 2016 Brexit vote, ma­jor com­pa­nies have been plan­ning for Brexit, but chief ex­ec­u­tives say the scale of dis­rup­tion from a dis­or­derly Brexit is such that it is hard to pre­pare for.

Profit at Bri­tain’s big­gest depart­ment stores group, John Lewis Part­ner­ship, was wiped out in the first half as it was forced to match dis­count­ing by its strug­gling ri­vals on a fiercely com­pet­i­tive high street.

“With the level of un­cer­tainty fac­ing con­sumers and the econ­omy, in part due to on­go­ing Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, fore­cast­ing is par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult,” John Lewis said. — Reuters.

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