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Britain unveils next batch of no-deal Brexit advice papers

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Brexit will happen on 29 March, 2019. Photo: Reuters

The government has published the second batch of documents telling British people, businesses, and other groups about how to prepare for the possibility of Britain leaving the European Union without a deal.

Among the 28 notices issued there are warnings about travelling and driving within the EU — including an update on the much-heralded return of blue British passports — and advice about how to handle civil legal cases that involve EU countries. They also include four notices about business regulations, such as on mergers, telecoms businesses, and public sector contracts.

UK prime minister Theresa May this morning chaired a special cabinet meeting that focused on how the country should prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

READ MORE: What is a no-deal Brexit? The key things you need to know

Driving in the EU

An abrupt departure from the EU could mean that other members of the bloc, at least temporarily, would not recognise British driving licences. This would cause immediate disruption for tourists and the thousands of truck drivers who transport goods across the Channel Tunnel every day. “If there is no deal with the EU, you may need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in the EU,” the papers advise. The UK, however, will not require drivers with licences from other EU countries to hold any additional paperwork.

READ MORE: No-deal Brexit advice paper: UK driving licences may be invalid in the EU

Travelling to the EU with a UK passport

In a no-deal scenario, a paper on travelling to the EU warns that British citizens will be “considered a third country national,” and that their passports will need to comply with specific rules under the EU’s Schengen Border Code if they are travelling to the border-free area within the bloc. Third-country passports must have been issued within the past 10 years and have three months validity remaining.

The paper also notes that the government will start issuing long-awaited blue British passports in late 2019. “If you renew your passport between late 2019 and early 2020, you’ll be automatically issued with either a blue or burgundy British passport,” it says.

Business regulations

The government says that it does not expect significant impacts on how businesses operate under Britain’s telecoms regulatory framework, since most EU-derived rules have already been implemented in UK law. Telecoms operators in the UK would also still be able to provide cross-border services and operate within the EU, as provided for by a World Trade Organisation agreement.

With respect to mergers and acquisitions, a paper says that the European Commission will no longer investigate anti-competitive conduct in the UK, and that the Competition and Markets Authority “will be the only authority with jurisdiction to review mergers for their effects in the UK.” 

Currently, under EU law, many public procurement opportunities are advertised in a centralised EU directory known as ‘Tenders Electronic Daily.’ After Brexit, a replacement UK-specific service “will be made available,” a paper says. 

Mobile phone bills

It is also possible, a paper warns, that the cost of mobile phone bills could rise dramatically if mobile carriers are forced to pass on the costs of higher roaming and data charges in EU countries. EU regulations introduced last year virtually abolished roaming charges for EU citizens travelling in other member states. The paper says, however, that the government would legislate to ensure that mobile operators “apply a financial limit on mobile data usage while abroad,” like with current EU law.

Common Travel Area with Ireland

A paper on the Common Travel Area (CTA) with Ireland, which predates the EU, confirms it will continue to operate even in a no-deal scenario. Noting that the CTA “goes to the heart of the relationship between these islands”, it says there will “be no practical changes to the UK’s approach to immigration on journeys within the CTA.” If you are an Irish citizen, you will “continue to have the right to enter and remain in the UK,” it says. 

READ MORE: Why the Northern Irish border is a huge problem for Brexit

Civil legal cases that involve other EU countries

The UK currently applies EU rules to determine which country’s courts, laws, regulations and which procedures are applicable to civil cases taken within the bloc. These rules cover civil and commercial disputes, such as insolvency, and family law matters. In the event of a no-deal scenario, a paper warns, “there would be no agreed EU framework for ongoing civil judicial cooperation between the UK and EU countries.” While the UK will still remain party to international legal agreements such as the Hague Conventions, the paper advises businesses, consumers and families that may be involved in cross-border legal disputes within the EU to consider the effect of these changes.

Oil companies can reduce stocks

In a no-deal scenario, the UK will continue to be a member country of the International Energy Agency, but will no longer have to conform with EU rules that require countries to maintain a higher level of oil stocks. The paper notes that the UK would still ensure that companies maintain “a level of stocks still widely considered to be appropriate to protect against oil disruption.”

Environmental protections

Four notices concern the environment. One paper notes that, by and large, established environmental principles and EU environmental law “will continue to have effect in UK law,” and that the UK will introduce a new process for determining conclusions about industrial emissions targets. A second paper notes that the Department for Transport will take over the functions of the European Commission with respect to CO2 emissions targets. It will also set UK-specific emissions targets that “will aim to keep pace with EU targets.” A third paper says that the government “is committed to maintaining environmental standards” and upholding its international obligations.

Goods standards

In a no-deal scenario, UK companies that want to sell certain classes of goods, which include toys, radios, marine equipment, and gas appliances, to EU countries, will have to get them assessed by EU-recognised standards bodies as UK-based bodies will no longer be recognised. Goods that meet EU standards will be allowed to be placed on the market in the UK, but a paper on this issue notes that this is intended to be a “time-limited measure.” 

Currently, other classes of goods, such as furniture, textiles, bicycles and cooking utensils, are mostly only subject to national regulations in each member state within the EU. The bloc’s mutual recognition principle means that if these types of goods are sold legally within one EU country, they can be sold within another EU country. Since, as the paper notes, the UK would “no longer fall within the scope of the mutual recognition principle” in a no-deal scenario, UK exporters of goods will need to make sure they comply with the regulations of the member states they’re exporting to.

UK vehicle manufacturers would need to obtain a European Community type-approval for cars sold in other EU countries, another paper advises.

Warnings about space debris

A no-deal Brexit would mean that the UK would no longer be eligible to participate in the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking programme, a paper notes. While the UK will continue to receive data from the US, it will not receive any EU information about space debris crashing back to Earth on a scheduled or unscheduled basis. The papers also reiterate the fears that the UK will be cut out of the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system. In August, the government announced £92 million in funding for a rival British system.

Pharmaceutical regulations 

One of the papers notes that companies that use drug precursors — chemicals that can be used to illegally manufacture narcotic drugs — will need import or export licences, which can cost thousands of pounds, to ship these to EU countries.

In a statement before the release of the papers, Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said that the notices were “part and parcel of our sensible, pragmatic approach to preparing for all outcomes.”

There are 84 technical notices in total. On 23 August, the government released 25 of them, which covered topics such as credit card fees and medicine.

READ MORE: Britain releases first batch of hard Brexit contingency plan