UK outlines contingency plan in event of ‘no-deal’ Brexit

Consumers and businesses in the United Kingdom would have to pay more for goods and services in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit between the UK and the European Union, the British government has warned.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday released 25 so-called “technical notices” that covered everything from financial services to nuclear materials, advising companies and the public on how to prepare for such a scenario.

He said he remained confident the two sides would reach a deal before March and that it was “unlikely” the talks would fail.

“If the EU responds with the same level of ambition and pragmatism, we will strike a strong deal that benefits both sides. But we must be ready to consider the alternative,” he said.

The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, nearly three years after 52 percent of Britons voted in favour of ending the country’s 43-year membership of the bloc in a deeply divisive referendum in June 2016.

While the UK currently has customs-free trade with the 27 other EU countries, the notices said a no-deal Brexit would mean a much harder border.

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

A financial services document warned that UK banks would likely lose access to EU payments systems and “customers could face increased costs and slower processing times for euro transactions”.

It added: “The cost of card payments between the UK and EU will likely increase.”

Meanwhile, businesses were warned that if the UK left without a deal, “the free circulation of goods between the UK and EU would cease”.

The documents also say Britain will allow EU financial services firms continued “passporting” rights to operate in the UK for up to three years, even if no agreement on such services is reached with the bloc -though it cannot guarantee that the EU will let British companies operate there. That could leave UK retirees in the EU unable to receive their pensions.

Britain will recognise EU standards for medicines – so drugs from the bloc will not need to be re-tested in the UK –  and will continue to fund British research programmes and academic exchanges that currently receive funding from the EU.

The rest of the more than 70 documents are due to be released by the end of September.

‘Devastating for working people’

The main opposition Labour party criticised the release of official guidance on what to do if the UK crashed out of the EU without a deal, saying it reflected “a complete failure of the government’s negotiating position”.

“A no-deal Brexit would be a real catastrophe,” said Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesperson.

Frances O’Grady, the head of the Trades Union Congress, said the reports confirmed that no-deal was not a credible option.

“It would be devastating for working people,” she said, adding: “The government cannot allow us to crash out”.

London and Brussels hope to strike a deal by October, to allow its ratification by the European and British parliaments before the UK leaves the bloc.

“Our overarching aim is to facilitate the smooth, continued, functioning of business, transport, infrastructure, research, aid programmes and funding streams,” said Raab.

If Prime Minister Theresa May fails to negotiate an agreement on the terms of Brexit before March 29, 2019, a no-deal scenario could mean the UK would start trading with the EU under World Trade Organization rules.

This would have uncertain consequences for Britons living in EU countries and EU citizens living in the UK.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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