EU implements contingency plans for no-deal Brexit

The EU has today started to implement its no-deal contingency plans as the UK heads for the end of the year with no Brexit deal agreed by MPs.

The European Commission's plan includes a number of specific, temporary measures aimed at avoiding ‘major disruption’ for the remaining 27 countries of the EU if the UK exits in a ‘cliff-edge’ fashion on March 29, 2019 at midnight French time.

It says the measures would not, and cannot ‘mitigate the overall impact of a no-deal scenario’ or replicate the benefits that would have been available with a deal and transition period.

As a priority, the Commission reiterates a call it previously made for member countries to act in a ‘generous’ way to Britons in the EU who would stand to lose their right to live and work in the countries where they live after Brexit day, provided that this is reciprocated by the UK.

It says in a statement: “In particular, member states should take measures to ensure that UK citizens legally residing in the EU on the date of withdrawal will continue to be considered legal residents”. France has started to do this via a new law giving the government special powers to create new legislation on matters including this, which was passed by a mixed MPs' and senators' committee yesterday in one of the final steps before it becomes law.

The Commission also asks that states take steps to protect social security rights acquired by UK nationals who exercised their right to free movement before Brexit day.

However in the event of no-deal any Britons coming after Brexit day would be subject to ordinary visa and residency card rules for non-EU citizens, and Britons with holiday homes would be subject to ordinary rules for visitors, such as not being able to stay for more than 90 days in any 180-day period.

The Commission notably asks that states get ready to be able to immediately issue temporary documents to Britons legally establised in EU countries on Brexit day so they have evidence of their legal residency and right to work. The states should also be ready to process applications for definitive residency permits by the end of 2019, it says.

Any periods of legal residency as an EU citizen before Brexit should be taken by EU states such as France as counting towards the right to be considered a long-term resident in the country as a non-EU citizen (editor’s note: eg. this could concern eligibility for non-EU citizen long-term resident cards, available after five years’ legal residency under certain conditions of integration, knowledge of French and means).

Considering that some Britons currently applying for EU citizen cartes de séjour (which are expected to help in obtaining non-EU cards) are already being offered appointments up to a year away, this is likely to put pressure on France in terms of staffing and organisation.

The Commission also asks that states take measures to protect ‘social security coordination’ rights, including ensuring that periods of paying into a British pension may still be taken into account (‘aggregated’) when it comes to paying state pensions and has asked that states continue paying their pensions as usual to their pensioners in the UK – which should mean that Britons in France would, reciprocally, continue to receive uprated British state pensions in France.

The papers issued today do not specifically refer to maintaining British state pensioners’ right to healthcare in France, which also broadly comes under the category of ‘social security’, although the UK recently indicated willingness to continue to pay for this as long as EU countries continue to pay for their pensioners’ healthcare in the UK.

It remains unclear exactly how British pensioners would continue to access healthcare rights in France and Cnam has previously said it is currently working on the basis that their rights would expire with their European S1 cards on Brexit day (however they would have to be maintained in the case of the negotiated deal). On the basis of legal residency, such people should logically be entitled, if all else fails, to healthcare on the basis of the Puma scheme, which includes a payment at 8% of ‘capital’ incomes over a certain threshold. 

The Commission is now calling on the Council of the EU and the European Parliament to make sure new EU laws are fast-tracked to make sure everything is ready where measures are needed at EU level.

The plans referred to today include various measures related to trade and commerce, as well as on transport, including:

  • Temporary measures, for one year, to avoid complete interruption of flights between the EU and UK, only allowing ‘basic connectivity’, that is direct flights between the UK and EU (however UK-based companies would not be able to fly between destinations inside the EU). This would be subject to the UK agreeing the same for EU-based companies.
  • Nothing for long-distance bus travel, which the EU does not have a contingency plan for, though the UK has said it would want to join the ‘interbus agreement’ allowing for occasional coach services (such as coach holidays, not regular long-distance services) to continue, which the EU says is ‘in principle possible’.
  • On rail transport, the EU says it is in touch with train operators [ie. Eurostar] to help speed up processes involved in obtaining EU operating licences and safety certificates and train drivers’ licences that would enable them to continue operating to the EU. This will need to be completed rapidly to ensure the service continues ‘without significant interruption’.
  • With regard to banks and insurers with headquarters in the UK, the EU says if they wish to continue providing services in the EU they must take steps to have EU authorisations in place, including by establishing branches in EU states.

For more information:

 A Q&A paper by the European Commission 

 Communication on preparedness from the Commission to other EU institutions 

 Previous Connexion stories

 UK releases no-deal paper on expatriate rights 

 Confusion over no-deal Brexit and bank accounts

Brexit risk to private pensions – what you can do 

Flights to and from the EU could be disrupted if there is a no-deal Brexit and pet travel would be more complicated, the British government confirms  

For all our Brexit coverage, including translations of the French Interior Ministry's latest advice, see: the Brexit section of our website  Articles with the Connexion logo are paywall or for subscribers (usually because they are also included in our monthly national newspaper).

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