EU Commission steps up preparedness planning for no-deal Brexit

Officials say no-deal contingency planning should not be seen as undercutting talks on deal, but necessary to plan for all eventualities

The European Commission continues to meet EU state representatives weekly to co-ordinate national and EU contingency planning for Brexit. Photograph: Getty Images

The European Commission has published an extensive series of contingency plans and draft legislative measures to prepare for a no-deal Brexit and the abrupt departure of the UK from the EU at the end of next March. Officials stressed the importance of no-deal planning by national authorities and business.

However, the commission plans provide no advice on the Irish Border, and commission officials refused to be drawn on what measures will have to be taken to protect the frictionless Border that, one said, “we all wish to maintain”.

They were asked at a briefing in Brussels what advice would they have for businesses who are being advised to prepare for a no-deal eventuality?

“All we can say is that we are all working for an agreement on the Border,” a senior official responded.


"What if there is no agreement? How do Irish businesses prepare for a no-deal?" The Irish Times repeated .

“We are all working for an agreement. we hope for an agreement,” was the response.

Both the Irish and British governments have insisted that it is not their intention to erect barriers to trade on the Border in the event of a no-deal, but they

have been unforthcoming about how they propose to achieve that. Both are likely to face pressure from other EU states and the World Trade Organisation to ensure there is no leaky border.

Irish officials simply reiterate that the UK will have to honour its commitment to no hard border and spell out how it intends to do so.

On transit across the UK for Irish goods, the commission promised to engage with the UK to ensure the smooth continued application of international transit convention rules.


The commission on Tuesday published a “communication” on contingency planning and two legislative measures that will have to be in place in the event of a no-deal.

It has already published 78 notices to stakeholders about contingency measures needed across every sector as well as measures that will also be necessary if there is a deal, although they will not come into force until the end of transition at the end of 2020.

The commission continues to meet member state representatives weekly to co-ordinate national and EU contingency planning.

Officials stressed that the contingency planning should not be seen in any way as undercutting talks on a deal, but said it was necessary to plan for all eventualities.

On "border issues", of all borders apparently except that in Ireland, the communication says that in the event of a no-deal, "the European Union must apply its regulation and tariffs at borders with the United Kingdom as a third country, including checks and controls for customs, sanitary and phytosanitary standards and verification of compliance with EU norms".

“Transport between the United Kingdom and the European Union would be severely impacted. Customs, sanitary and phytosanitary controls at borders could cause significant delays, eg in road transport, and difficulties for ports.”

Among the measures the commission says it will work on are legislative changes to visa regulations to allow exemptions for UK nationals to the requirement for short-term (90-day) EU visas. Any changes would have to be reciprocated by the UK.

Pet passports

Asked about UK-issued pet passports and driving licence recognition, EU officials said the former would no longer be recognised, while recognition of driving licences would vary from country to country.

It proposes to ensure that airport checks and internal processing of UK passengers would not change, although they would have to join passport queues for third-country nationals; airports would not have to reconfigure their passenger zones.

Commission officials say they are determined to ensure that air freedom rights are preserved to ensure UK and EU-based airlines can continue to take off, land and stop in EU and UK airports – in essence that air travel will remain very substantially unaffected by Brexit.

On financial service there will be measures to ensure that derivatives can be cleared for companies based in London.

Acknowledging that veterinary checks will have to be introduced between the EU and UK, the commission promises to minimise such controls in the initial period after Brexit.

Among EU legislative changes required will be technical adjustments and reallocations to provisions such as WTO and EU emission targets to reflect non-membership by the UK.

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth is former Europe editor of The Irish Times