The UK Government’s rhetoric over Brexit has changed since Boris Johnson succeeded Theresa May as Prime Minister. A no-deal Brexit seems likelier than ever and the deadline is rapidly approaching.
The issue of the Irish backstop is one of the key obstacles preventing the UK and the EU reaching a deal. There are also many other areas of disagreement which make a deal very unlikely before the deadline on October 31.
Johnson said preparations for a no-deal were being ramped up to help secure a deal but also: “so that if and when we are forced by the obduracy by our European friends to come out on 31 October without a deal that things are as smooth as they can possible be.”
But what are the EU and its member countries doing to prepare for a no-deal Brexit? This article will explain how the EU Commission (EC) and some of the key EU countries are preparing.
How is the European Commission Preparing for a No-Deal Brexit?
The EC has stated it is ready for a no-deal Brexit. It has repeatedly said there are plans to keep basic services running (such as air, travel, supplies, and financial services).
The EC said: "These proposals are temporary in nature, limited in scope and will be adopted unilaterally by the EU. They are not "mini-deals" and have not been negotiated with the UK".
It said the EU would be "required to immediately apply its rules and tariffs at its borders", and that the UK would be treated as a “third country” just like other non-EU countries.
However, its position on the issue of the Irish backstop has not been announced.
What Preparations Are EU Countries Making to Prepare for a No-Deal Brexit?
Here are summaries of the no-deal Brexit preparations key EU countries are making. The information is taken from the EU Commission’s website which contains links to advice from all EU member countries.
The German Government has appointed a special Brexit cabinet and said it is well prepared for all outcomes. It has appointed 900 extra customs staff and has passed new legislation regarding social security, taxes, and financial services.
However, there are no publicly-available projections regarding the potential impact of Brexit on the German economy.
The government has passed "Brexit Residence Transition Act" which would give British citizens living in Germany a period of 9 months to apply for residence permits before they had to leave.
Because of the Channel crossing, the France is in a unique position in terms of trade. The government has said that, despite its preparations, it does not expect trade to run as smoothly as now.
France is spending €50m on expanding port infrastructure to allow for customs checks, it plans to recruit 700 extra staff by the end of 2020 to help tackle the situation, and it is implementing a new IT system to quicken the process of lorries crossing the border.
The French Parliament passed a law to give the government extra powers to be able to cope with a no-deal Brexit. This includes power over the rights of British nationals living and working in France.
The Republic of Ireland is in a unique position because of the Irish border and the Irish Sea. The Government has been preparing for Brexit for a long time.
Ireland passed no-deal Brexit legislation in February and it covers a range of important issues including travel, social security, and pensions. However, the issue of the land border with Northern Ireland does not feature in the legislation.
In June 2019, the government estimated that a no-deal Brexit could cost 55,000 jobs within 2 years and another 30,000 in the long term.
More than 300,000 UK nationals officially live in Spain, the highest number in Europe. The government has stated they will continue to provide healthcare and other rights which British residents currently have.
In March, the government approved measures to continue current arrangements and these will become law in the vent of a no-deal Brexit. However, if the UK pass laws which negatively affects the rights of Spanish citizens living in the UK, this could put pressure on the Spanish Government to change their position.
A major point of disagreement is Gibraltar. Nine thousand Spanish citizens work in the disputed British territory and the Spanish Government believe it should be a part of Spain. Future arrangements would have to be reached.