The increasing reality of a no-deal departure
David Wood highlights the growing realism of a no-deal Brexit, and the latest flurries of new and updated guidance issued by the UK Government.
As argued by the Institute for Government in its paper ‘Voting on Brexit: Parliament’s role before 31 October’, the UK’s departure from the EU is looking increasingly likely to be without a deal, on 31 October.
When MPs return to Parliament after their summer recess, there will be less than two months to go to 31 October, and having originally voted in favour of triggering Article 50, the legal default of leaving without a deal was already established.
As set out in the Institute for Government paper, in summary:
- It is very unlikely the UK will be able to agree an amended deal with the EU and ratify it before 31 October.
- MPs can express opposition to ‘no deal’ but that would not force the Government to act to prevent it.
- Backbenchers have limited opportunities to legislate to stop ‘no deal’.
- A vote of no confidence would not necessarily stop ‘no deal’ – the Fixed Term Parliaments Act is untested and it is not clear whether the Prime Minister would follow constitutional convention and resign.
- There is probably not enough time to hold a general election before the end of October.
- A second referendum can only happen with government support, which would not appear likely.
Whilst there remains much political speculation on what action Parliament might take, it seems clear that if you haven’t thought through the implications of ‘no deal’ for your business, you should urgently do so now and mitigate the risks as well as you can at this late stage.
The Summer 2019 Brexit Tracker survey (watch out for the Autumn Tracker in the September edition of The CA) suggests that whilst three quarters of organisations are prepared for a negotiated Brexit (with a transition period), far fewer are prepared for a no-deal departure. Clearly, there needs to be a lot of planning taking place with some urgency.
Whilst the Tracker survey reported that UK Government guidance was only the fifth most useful source of advice, such guidance is probably a necessary starting point on which to build. Respondents highlighted business contacts and colleagues, trade/professional bodies such as ICAS, and external advisers and consultants as the most useful sources.
New and updated Government guidance
In the last two weeks, there has been a huge volume of Government announcements and updates to earlier guidance. Those which might be of most interest to ICAS members are as follows:
- Trading under WTO rules - how to trade with other countries if there is no UK trade agreement in place
- UK trade agreements with non-EU countries in a no-deal Brexit – details of which new trade agreements will be in place if there's a no-deal Brexit
- Structuring your business if there's a no-deal Brexit - how cross border business operations would be affected if there's a no-deal Brexit
- Banking, insurance and other financial services if there’s no Brexit deal
- Carry out international road haulage after Brexit - what UK goods vehicle operators need to do to carry out international road haulage if there's a no-deal Brexit
- Consumer rights and business: changes after Brexit
- Merger review and anti-competitive activity after Brexit
- Workplace rights after Brexit
- Local government Brexit preparedness
- Accessing data from the European Economic Area under no-deal Brexit – guidance for local authorities
- Public-sector procurement after a no-deal Brexit - information for public authorities, businesses and other organisations on the outcome for public procurement policy in a no-deal Brexit scenario
- Planning for a no-deal Brexit: information for the health and care sector
- Benefits and pensions for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens in the UK if there's a no-deal Brexit
- Benefits and pensions for UK nationals in the EU, EEA or Switzerland if there's a no-deal Brexit
- UK lawyers practising in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein after a no-deal Brexit
As highlighted in earlier articles, other Government guidance is available via the following links:
Brodies, the law firm which sponsors The CA’s Brexit Tracker Survey, has a large number of guidance pieces on its website, together with a checklist for businesses to assess their preparedness. This is available through its Brexit Hub.
Scottish enterprise agencies have developed the ‘prepareforbrexit.scot’ website to provide assistance to Scottish businesses, including a self-assessment checklist, details of low cost actions which can be taken now, and the availability of a grant up to £4,000 to help Scottish SMEs manage their Brexit impacts.