EU prepares for possible 'cliff edge' Brexit

The EU has put out almost 70 papers on preparing for Brexit and uses the words ‘cliff edge’ and ‘no deal’, saying it is getting ready for all eventualities.

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It stresses that an exit deal must be ready by October 18’s summit of the EU leaders in 13 weeks' time; it says this should be accompanied by a ‘political declaration’ on wishes for the future UK/EU relationship (to form the basis of further talks in a transition period) and if this is achieved it will be ‘just in time’ to allow for ratification by the UK and EU parliaments.

This comes as Britain’s new Brexit Minister Dominic Raab met for the first time with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, with Mr Raab saying he is ready to work throughout August to ‘intensify’ the talks and ‘get some energy’ into them.

Mr Barnier is expected to make a statement around 13.00 after a meeting of EU ministers, giving reactions to the UK’s ‘white paper’ on its ideas for the future relationship. The latter is one of the contentious areas to be agreed on and it relates to matters like trade, and security and defence cooperation.

The EU says it is “working day and night for a deal ensuring an orderly withdrawal”, but that even if there is a deal, “the UK’s withdrawal will undoubtedly cause disruption, for example in business supply chains”.

However there is no guarantee a deal will be in place before the UK leaves, it says.

In a document summarising the need for ‘preparedness’ (which is supplemented by 68 on specific sectors) the EU says progress has been made, but that important issues remain on a raft of areas from whether or not the UK will continue to respect EU protected food names, to police and judicial cooperation in ongoing criminal investigations and how to avoid a hard Northern Ireland border.

The EU says that should there be no agreement in place, there will be no transition period and the UK will leave in a “no deal or cliff-edge scenario”.

Should that happen, it says, “there would be no specific arrangement in place for EU citizens in the UK or for UK citizens in the EU”, trade tariffs would immediately be applied at borders and checks would be done for customs and health and safety standards and compliance with EU norms.

Transport would be ‘severely impacted’ and there would be ‘significant delays’ and ‘difficulties at ports’.

It is possible that if this happens the EU would seek to enter new negotiations with the UK as a third country at this point, it says.

Even in the best-case scenario, however, the EU adds that all sectors must prepare for changes, such as an end to passporting rights in the financial sector, and a requirement for inspections at ports, which will mean recruiting more customs staff.

The EU also notes that when it leaves the UK will have to be placed on either a list of countries whose nationals require visas simply to visit the EU, or those who do not (but are nonetheless expected to require an online ‘ETIAS’ application, including a €7 fee, from 2021). Which list it is placed on will be decided based on the outcome of the negotiations, it says – leaving open the possibility that in a ‘no deal’ scenario it would be necessary for British people to apply to the French consulate in London for a visa for a holiday in France.

In a document on air transport, the EU notes that EU rules on air transport will no longer apply to the UK after March 29, 2019 if there is no transition period.

One effect would be that to keep an EU operating licence and be allowed to run intra-EU flights (eg. Paris to Rome), airlines would need to be based in the UK and to be majority owned by EU member states or nationals.

Meanwhile for passengers the various EU rights with regard to compensation for delays and cancellations would cease with regard to flights from the UK to the EU unless the airline is an EU-based one.

  • Connexion has interviewed the French Interior Ministry about how France expects to deal with British citizens after Brexit (with or without a 'deal') for our August issue, published next week.

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