Step up preparations for ‘cliff-edge’ Brexit, says EU

Businesses, embassies, and public services across EU states have been warned to step up preparations for a “cliff-edge” Brexit outcome with hopes dwindling of a smooth withdrawal deal.

The EU yesterday laid out different scenarios for member states in documents as negotiations commence with Britain over its white paper for a soft Brexit.

In the absence of a withdrawal deal, the advice suggests Britain would crash out of the union on March 30.

There would be no arrangements for UK citizens in EU states or EU nationals living in the UK. Furthermore, checks and tariffs would be applied at EU borders with the UK, mainly in the North.

The advice to member states from Brussels warns that customs, sanitary, and phytosanitary [plant diseases especially in agricultural crops] controls at borders could cause significant delays in road transport and difficulties for ports.

UK relations with the EU would be governed by the World Trade Organisation and union funding for the “third country” would stop. However, with a withdrawal agreement, a transition period would apply until 2021.

This would allow more time for negotiation and EU rules would still apply to the UK during the period.

All scenarios should be prepared for, the EU tells member states: “Preparation must, therefore, be stepped up immediately at all levels and taking into account all possible outcomes.”

Businesses under UK authorities may have to apply for permits to work with member states, the document says.

The advice adds that private bodies, business operators, and professionals need to prepare for a “cliff-edge scenario” among possibilities and “need to take responsibility for their individual situation, assess the potential impacts of a cliff-edge scenario on their business model”.

Industry associations, embassies, consulates, and public services have a role to play in informing citizens.

Many companies, the EU said, are relocating to other member states.

The briefing note for countries also highlights the need for “significant investments” in personnel and infrastructures. The advice specifically highlights Ireland’s plan and a website called where SMEs can assess their exposure to Brexit.

The EU noted Ireland is offering SMEs grants of up to €5,000 for Brexit preparations. Dutch authorities also offer similar online support for SMEs.

The EU says that it has published 68 notices where actions by member states need to be taken, including in areas of health and food safety, transport, financial stability and financial services, environment, internal market, customs, civil justice, company law, and professional qualifications

Meanwhile, there are calls for more clarity around the Government’s plans here to hire an extra 1,000 customs officials and veterinary inspectors to prepare for border and trade changes under Brexit .


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