UK report on no-deal Brexit highlights consequences few considered

Even pictures of rotting lungs on cigarette packs will have to be changed

UK Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, pauses during a question and answer session after delivering a speech in London on Thursday. Photograph: Bloomberg

UK Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, pauses during a question and answer session after delivering a speech in London on Thursday. Photograph: Bloomberg

 

Publishing the first 25 technical notices on the impact of a no-deal Brexit, Dominic Raab said he hoped they would offer reassurance following stories about stockpiling medicines, sandwich shortages and troops deployed to deliver food. Instead, they highlighted consequences few had thought about, such as British expats unable to access their bank accounts and higher credit card charges for consumers.

Even the pictures of rotting lungs on cigarette packets will have to be changed because, the papers reveal, the European Commission owns the copyright. The paper on trade exposes the hollowness of the Brexiteers’ promise to make a bonfire of red tape after leaving the EU. European bureaucracy will be replaced by British administrative hurdles which are so complex that the government tells businesses they should consider paying a customs broker to fill out the forms for them.

Half of the notices include a passage about Northern Ireland, stating that the British government “is clear that in a no-deal scenario we must respect our unique relationship with Ireland, with whom we share a land border and who are co-signatories of the Belfast Agreement”. Raab restated his government’s commitment to avoiding a hard Border even without a Brexit deal but offered no detail about how that might be achieved.

The notice on trade promises “engagement on arrangements for land border trade”, implying a bilateral arrangement with Ireland but acknowledging that Dublin would need the approval of its EU partners for any such arrangement. In the meantime, the paper suggests that anyone trading across the Border should ask the Irish Government about how they should prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

The British government is expected to publish a paper within weeks on the future of the Common Travel Area in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which may guarantee the current rights of Irish citizens in the UK. The papers published on Thursday suggest, however, that any special trading arrangements would apply solely to trade across the Border and that businesses trading between the Republic and the rest of the UK would face the same hurdles as those from other EU member states.

This could mean that, for example, a firm exporting cheese to Britain could avoid costly bureaucratic hurdles by routing it through Northern Ireland. Whether the EU would consent to a reciprocal arrangement, allowing Northern Ireland to serve as a regulatory backdoor into the European single market, is doubtful.

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