U.K. Con­ser­va­tives ad­mit Brexit will bring fair share of headaches

Ev­ery­thing from higher credit charges to sperm short­ages seen in gloomy fore­cast

Calgary Herald - - FINANCIAL POST - JILL LAW­LESS

LON­DON Busi­nesses could face red tape at the bor­der, cus­tomers could see higher credit card fees, pa­tients could en­dure de­lays to med­i­cal treat­ment and there could even be a sperm short­age if Bri­tain leaves the Euro­pean Union next year without a deal, the U.K. gov­ern­ment ac­knowl­edged Thurs­day.

But Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment vowed it would limit the in­sta­bil­ity that could be trig­gered by a dis­or­derly Brexit, re­leas­ing doc­u­ments out­lin­ing its plans to cope.

Even if Bri­tain crashes out of the bloc next year without a trade deal, its plans in­clude uni­lat­er­ally ac­cept­ing some EU rules and giv­ing EU fi­nan­cial ser­vices firms con­tin­ued ac­cess to the U.K. mar­ket.

Brexit Sec­re­tary Do­minic Raab said Bri­tain was de­ter­mined to “manage the risks and em­brace the op­por­tu­ni­ties” of Brexit.

“We have made clear that if ne­go­ti­a­tions don’t achieve the op­ti­mum out­come, we will con­tinue to be a re­spon­si­ble Euro­pean neigh­bour and part­ner,” he said in a speech Thurs­day to busi­ness lead­ers in Lon­don.

With seven months un­til Bri­tain leaves the EU on March 29, ne­go­ti­a­tions on di­vorce terms and fu­ture trade have bogged down amid in­fight­ing within May’s di­vided gov­ern­ment about how close an eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship to seek with the EU.

The gov­ern­ment in­sists it’s con­fi­dent of get­ting a deal, but is prepar­ing for all out­comes. On Thurs­day it pub­lished the first 25 of more than 70 pa­pers cov­er­ing “no-deal” plan­ning for sec­tors in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial ser­vices, medicines and nu­clear ma­te­ri­als. The rest are to be re­leased by the end of Septem­ber.

The pa­pers say Bri­tain will al­low EU fi­nan­cial ser­vices firms con­tin­ued “pass­port­ing” rights to op­er­ate in the U.K. for up to three years, even if no agree­ment is reached with the EU — al­though it can’t guar­an­tee that the bloc will let U.K. com­pa­nies op­er­ate there. That could leave Bri­tish re­tirees liv­ing in EU coun­tries un­able to re­ceive their pen­sions.

Raab dis­missed alarm­ing head­lines sug­gest­ing the U.K. could run out of sand­wich sup­plies and other staples be­cause of eco­nomic bar­ri­ers be­tween Bri­tain and the EU, its big­gest trad­ing part­ner.

“You will still be able to en­joy a BLT af­ter Brexit,” Raab said.

But the doc­u­ments reveal the pos­si­ble scale of dis­rup­tion to the Bri­tish econ­omy and daily life that could fol­low Brexit.

For goods go­ing to and com­ing in from the EU, “an im­port dec­la­ra­tion will be re­quired, cus­toms checks may be ar­rived out and any cus­toms du­ties must be paid,” one doc­u­ment says.

And one of the thorni­est ques­tions — how to main­tain an open bor­der, free of cus­toms posts, be­tween EU mem­ber Ire­land and the U.K.’s North­ern Ire­land — re­mains unan­swered.

The gov­ern­ment said the U.K. will rec­og­nize EU stan­dards for test­ing medicines, so drugs from the bloc won’t need to be re-tested in the U.K. But new drugs and treat­ments would still need ap­proval from the U.K. medicines reg­u­la­tor be­fore they could be sold in Bri­tain.

Brexit could also af­fect the sup­ply of se­men for fer­til­ity treat­ment, the pa­pers say. Al­most half of Bri­tain’s donor sperm cur­rently comes from Den­mark. If there’s no deal, Bri­tain will be out­side the EU’s di­rec­tive on or­gans, tis­sues and cells, and U.K. fer­til­ity clin­ics will need to strike new writ­ten agree­ments with their sup­pli­ers.

The pa­pers reveal that Bri­tish or­ganic farm­ers won’t be able to ex­port their pro­duce to the EU un­less the bloc cer­ti­fies U.K. stan­dards — a process that can’t start un­til af­ter Brexit and takes nine months. And the widely rec­og­nized or­ganic logo plas­tered across ev­ery­thing from veg­eta­bles to beef be­longs to the EU, so U.K. pro­duc­ers will no longer be able to use it.

Cig­a­rette pack­ag­ing will also have to be re­designed be­cause the EU holds the copy­right on the pho­tos of dis­eased lungs and other off-putting im­ages em­bla­zoned on the packs.

LUKE MACGREGOR/BLOOMBERG

Brexit Sec­re­tary Do­minic Raab said Bri­tain was de­ter­mined to “em­brace the op­por­tu­ni­ties” of Brexit.

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