On the day that the UK Prime Minister announces a Brexit deal to the United Kingdom - the European Commission intensifies its preparations for a no-deal scenario.

The European Commission has today - 14 November 2018 - posted updates providing: “extensive information on the changes that will occur – in the event of no deal – for persons travelling between the EU and the UK, and vice versa, after 29 March 2019, or for businesses providing services in relation to such travel. It includes information on such things as border checks and customs controls, driving licences and pet passports, amongst others.”.

It cannot be coincidence that on the very day that Theresa May announced that a deal had been reached with Europe, the EC outlined: “contingency actions in priority areas if no agreement is reached with the United Kingdom.”  What timing – as there has been not one ‘no-deal’ communication updates published since July.

The European College of Commissioners has adopted two legislative proposals to amend existing EU law in the area of visas and energy efficiency to take account of the UK's withdrawal stating that: “these targeted legislative adaptations are necessary, irrespective of the outcome of the withdrawal negotiations.”

Today's communication provides details on the types of contingency measures that could be taken, should it appear likely that the UK will leave the EU: “in a disorderly manner.”  The Commission has identified priority areas where measures could be necessary, given the significant impact a no-deal scenario would have for citizens and businesses: residency and visa-related issues, financial services, air transport, customs, sanitary/phytosanitary rules, the transfer of personal data, and climate policy.

Contingency measures would only be taken in areas where they are necessary to protect the vital interests of the EU - and where preparedness measures are not currently possible.

The Commission states that: “they would be temporary in nature, limited in scope, adopted unilaterally by the EU and must remain compatible with EU law.”  The communique sets out the detailed legislative steps that should be taken should such contingency measures be deemed necessary.  A clear warning the UK about assuming that trade will continue as freely as it does today.

The European Commission has continued to distance itself from dealing with the consequences of the Notices and continues to step away from the responsibility of implementing such change – and firmly puts the onus on business and commerce: “only a small part of preparations can be carried out by the EU institutions.”

“Preparing for the UK's withdrawal is a joint effort at EU, national, regional and local levels, as well as by economic operators.”

Whilst maintaining that: “the EU remains united and that any measures are applied consistently and coherently within the EU,” the Commission stresses their commitment in particular to: “support Ireland in finding solutions addressing the specific challenges of Irish businesses.”

EC Legislative proposals (energy efficiency & visa requirements)

Two legislative proposals were adopted today by the College of Commissioners:

  • Energy efficiency: The Commission has today proposed to make a technical adaptation to the EU's energy legislation (the Energy Efficiency Directive) to take account of the UK's withdrawal. The EU's energy efficiency targets are based on EU28 energy consumption figures. Since the UK is leaving, it is necessary to adapt these consumption figures to reflect the EU at 27. This does not affect in any way the June 2018 political agreement on the EU's energy efficiency targets. The EU remains committed to its energy efficiency target for 2030 of at least 32.5%.

  • Visas: The Commission has today proposed to amend the Visa Regulation.  This would mean that when EU law no longer applies in the U.K, on 30 March 2019 in case of a no deal or at the end of the transition period in case of an orderly withdrawal, UK nationals would be exempt from any visa requirement for short stays in the EU.  This is entirely conditional on the UK also granting reciprocal and non-discriminatory visa-free travel to EU citizens travelling to the UK. This is in line with the Commission's commitment to put citizens first in the negotiations with the UK.

The proposed measures are specific, limited and targeted at remedying the negative impact of a disorderly withdrawal or at enabling the necessary adaptation of the legislation.

Notice on Travelling between EU and UK after 29 March 2019

Today's notice outlines several areas where the UK's withdrawal from the EU will have a significant impact on the ease of travelling between the EU and the UK post-Brexit.  In case of a no-deal scenario, EU law will stop applying to the UK at midnight on 29 March 2019 – certain entry and exit checks at the EU's external border will be necessary.  Goods entering the EU from the UK – in particular, of animal origin – may also be subject to customs controls and other related checks, controls and restrictions.  Some licences and certificates, for example, drivers' licences or pet passports, may also no longer be valid.

Need help in dealing with the impacts of these notices?

Contact us here for further analysis and support in interpreting and developing contingency plans to mitigate the risks to movement of goods and personnel set out in these EC notifications.

John ShuttleworthComment