Would we really be “crashing out” in the event of No Deal?

Ever since 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU in an historic referendum in 2016, we have been warned of a ‘cliff edge’ or ‘crashing out’ and fed daily warnings of chaos, disease and even death. But are the warnings credible? Hardly, so we have debunked the most common of them below:

1 . Delays at the ports

Jean-Marc Puissesseau, President-Chairman of the ports of Boulogne-Calais stated:

“For the 29th March, we will be ready… There will be no delay – the trucks will be passing as they are doing today…

We have heard so many things about the hard brexit. We are preparing for no deal since one year ago. For the 29th of March, we will be ready…

..we will not check the trucks more than we are doing today with the migrants.

..we will not stop or ask more than we are doing today.

..There will be no delay – the trucks will be passing as they are today.

Jean-Marc Puissesseau, BBC Radio 4 Today Programme – 9th January 2019

References

2 . Food & clothing prices will rise

Article 24 of the WTO General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT 1947) says that we will continue under current tariffs for a “reasonable length of time” until a new trade deal is agreed. This time period is expected to be around 2 years but can last for 10 years if required.

Additionally, we would be in charge of our own tariffs in the event of a No Deal, therefore no tariffs would rise unless our government chose to raise them. It is unlikely that would happen and in the name of competition, the government would likely reduce tariffs, making imported products cheaper.

Martin Howe at Lawyers for Britain states:

“The UK is currently in the process of ‘rectifying’ its tariff schedules at the WTO by copy-and-pasting the EU’s current schedules. But those schedules do not specify the tariffs which we will have to charge on our imports: they specify the maximum level of tariffs which we are allowed to charge. We will be fully free to charge lower levels of tariffs, or zero tariffs, if we feel fit.”

Martin Howe, Chairman of Lawyers for Britain. Martin is a leading barrister in the fields of intellectual property and EU law

References

Article 24 WTO: WTO Website
Martin Howe’s article: Lawyers for Britain

3 . Flights will be grounded

The EU have already created a ‘bare bones’ plan to guarantee travel however, member states are demanding much more in order to avoid missing out on the upcoming tourist trade. As part of the governments response to this plan, transport Secretary Chris Grayling stated:

“Whether for business or leisure, travellers can continue to book with confidence.”

Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary

Additionally, the UK government have been making arrangements:

“If there is ‘no deal’ with the EU, airlines wishing to operate flights between the UK and the EU would have to seek individual permissions to operate from the respective states (be that the UK or an EU country). In this scenario the UK would envisage granting permission to EU airlines to continue to operate. We would expect EU countries to reciprocate in turn. It would not be in the interest of any EU country or the UK to restrict the choice of destinations that could be served, though, if such permissions are not granted, there could be disruption to some flights.

In order to ensure permissions were granted and flights continued, the UK’s preference would be to agree a basic arrangement or understanding on a multilateral basis between the UK and the EU. Alternatively, bilateral arrangements between the UK and an individual EU country could be put in place, specifying the conditions under which air services would be permitted. By definition any such agreement would be reciprocal in nature. The European Commission has previously acknowledged that a ‘bare bones’ agreement on air services would be desirable in the event of the UK leaving with ‘no deal’.

In the scenario where a provisional deal is agreed for air services, airlines will continue to be required to apply for the following associated permissions.”

UK Government, 24th September 2018

References

The EU’s ‘bare bones’ contingency plan: Europa.eu
The Government’s response to the EU contingency plan: Gov.uk
The Government’s plan for aviation in event of a No Deal: Gov.uk

4 . Shortage of medicines

In an interview on The Today Programme in January, the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock confirmed that all procedures are in place to prevent this:

“in the event of a no deal brexit… “we will have an unhindered supply of drugs”

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, BBC Radio 4 Today Programme – 24th January 2019

In addition, he has written to NHS staff confirming:

  • hospitals, GPs and community pharmacies in the UK do not need to take any steps to stockpile additional drugs or medical devices
  • there is no need for clinicians to write longer NHS prescriptions
  • medical staff should do all they can to make patients aware that they do not need to store additional NHS medicines or medical products at home

References

The Today Programme episode: BBC Sounds – (interview starts at 1hr 10)

Matt Hancock’s letter to the health and care system: Gov.uk

5 . Travel to the EU will stop or become much harder

For any of those who have flown to countries outside of the EU, you will be aware of how easy it is, so flying to the EU after a No Deal Brexit is unlikely to be any more complicated than flying outside of the EU, and so the EU have confirmed. Recently the EU announced that Brits will be able to travel to EU countries after 29th March 2019 under the EUs ETIAS system. This allows visa free travel up to 3 months at a time. In order to do this you will have to pay a €7 fee every 3 years.

Additionally, Portugal have taken the initiative to open up a British only passport fast lane at their airports to facilitate British tourists post Brexit.

References

BBC Article on EU’s announcement: BBC.co.uk
Guardian article on Portugals ‘Special lanes for Britons’: The Guardian

6 . There will be a hard border in Ireland

A soft border and free travel area between Northern Ireland and Ireland has been in place since before our membership of the EU, so there should be no need for one after we leave the EU. The British Government has already proposed a no border solution meaning no posts or lorry stops, using electronic monitoring and trusted trader rules. Preparations were underway for this however, since Enda Kenny was replaced by Leo Varadkar this has been dismissed by Ireland and the EU.

This is because the EU don’t care about peace in Northern Ireland, they care about the EU project, and putting pressure on the UK. If they did care about peace in Ireland then they wouldn’t have proposed a border along the Irish Sea and would be doing everything they can to sign up to a comprehensive free trade deal. A free trade deal would be the easiest way to prevent any arguments over the Irish border issue as it would remove any tariffs on goods, facilitating frictionless borders.

If we were to leave on WTO rules, the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement requires both sides to maintain as frictionless borders as possible. This would mean us resorting to the UK’s original proposal of trusted trader rules and electronic monitoring.

David Collins, a professor of international economic law at City, University of London and WTO specialist said:

“Rather than give in to the EU’s all-or-nothing pressure tactics which threaten an ominous post-EU apocalypse, the UK must be prepared to walk away from the negotiating table.

“While a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU along the lines of the EU’s with Canada would be optimal, a no-deal scenario is entirely feasible and can lead to economic prosperity.”

“The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement obliges the EU to maintain as frictionless borders as possible through modern technology like pre-inspections and trusted traders, meaning that customs procedures at the Northern Ireland border should not be problematic.”

David Collins, a professor of international economic law at City, University of London and WTO specialist

There are options under WTO exemptions to maintain our border arrangements, most preferably those exemptions to ‘Most Favoured Nation’ rules within Article 24 of The WTO General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT 1947).

Regardless of WTO exemptions, there is still no requirement for a hard border, as Northern Ireland and Ireland already have a free movement agreement external from EU regulations, additionally there is nothing from stopping us handling the trade in the same way we do at the ports, as well as using the same process as they do in Switzerland. The EU have already done research on this called Maximum Facilitation. Additionally Barnier, the UK and Ireland have all stated that they will not create a border. This issue is a pressure tactic used to corner the UK, and it’s working.

References

David Collins: Negotiating Brexit: The Legal Basis for EU & Global Trade
Dr Ray Bassett, ex-senior diplomat at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs: Brexit – Options for the Irish Border
How to fix the Irish border problem: CapX
Most Favour Nation Rules: Understanding the WTO – WTO.org
Article 24 WTO: WTO Website