Countdown to Brexit: 98 days – EU27 countries prepare for no-deal Brexit

Earlier this week, the European Commission published its action plan to protect EU citizens and businesses from "major disruption" if the UK crashes out of Europe without a deal on 29 March 2019.

As Parliament in the UK appears to be far away from ratifying the one and only deal – comprising the negotiated “Withdrawal Agreement” and its associated Political Declaration” - the EC has said it is "essential and urgent" to act now on no-deal Brexit contingency planning.

We reported on the day that it was published on Brussels’ outline contingency plan for the remaining 27 EU countries - covering 14 areas that will be affected, ranging from financial services to aviation, customs and carbon emissions trading - and designed to "protect the vital interests of the EU" .

In this piece, we look at the state of preparations in a number of countries – with embedded links to some key source documents.


French customs have been taking steps to prepare for Brexit. An additional 250 members of staff have been recruited this year - a number that will rise to about 700 by the end of 2020.

French customs has also produced some detailed online information (in French) for businesses on how to prepare for Brexit in all its potential forms.

Last month, the French government published a draft bill emphasising that "no-deal" would result in reinstating "checks on goods and passengers to and from the UK" as well as inspections of food, plants and live animals.

The French senate allocated time and has debated what to do about Brexit. This led to a draft bill that will give the French Government - rather than Parliament - the power to introduce new measures, by emergency decree if it needed, to avoid or mitigate the consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

Politicians representing the Channel ports are warning that chaos and long queues would be unavoidable - and both the French Government and the EU need to take further steps to avoid that happening.

The draft bill also focuses on citizens' rights in the event of no-deal - including what would be the legal situation of UK nationals resident in France. The bill also raises the possibility of other UK nationals needing visas to visit France.

Any emergency legal measures introduced to ease the situation would - according to the bill - depend on the UK taking reciprocal steps. The UK government has indicated that it will do so.


Germany has produced less detailed information in public than France - a cause of some frustration among business leaders and opposition parties.

The Federal Government has established a special “Brexit Cabinet” - led by Chancellor Angela Merkel - and she has spoken about the importance of the Government making "suitable preparations" for no deal.

She told German MPs last month that those preparations included managing the status of an estimated 100,000 British citizens in Germany - many of whom have lived there for years - as well as Germans living in the UK.

Behind the scenes, Germany is making many of the same preparations as France, including the recruitment of additional personnel to deal with the third county status and a less open economic relationship with the UK.

The German authorities emphasize their wish would be to see the Withdrawal Agreement ratified and an orderly exit - saying that no-deal would be the worst outcome for both sides.

The Netherlands

The Dutch have been busy.

This letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the House of Representatives sets out many of the steps that have been taken - including the planned recruitment of more than 1000 staff in customs and food safety agencies.

In information published online, the Dutch Government admits that a no-deal Brexit could hit the Netherlands hard - but that it could also produce some opportunities for Dutch businesses.

It notes that - whether there is a deal or not - the European Medicines Agency is relocating from London to Amsterdam with hundreds of additional skilled jobs and 20,000 annual visitors from around the World.

The Government is currently assessing how a no-deal Brexit without any transition period could affect the supply of medicines and medical equipment - and how any risks can be mitigated.

More details of Dutch Government preparations for Brexit in the Netherlands can be found here.


The Republic of Ireland has been actively preparing for Brexit since the referendum. We reported on the publication of their no-deal contingency plan as they now fear that the UK will crash out of the EU on 29 March 2019 (see Insights December 21, 2018).

It is all too clear that a no-deal Brexit would raise serious questions for the Irish economy.

The Irish Government is now running more public events on Brexit than the UK government. This includes a series of road shows involving senior politicians entitled “Getting Ireland Brexit Ready.”   You can follow them on twitter @BrexitReadyIRL.

In terms of preparations for no deal, the Irish Finance Minister, Paschal Donohoe, made a series of announcements in his recent Budget, including investing 300m euros (£260m) in training schemes for sectors that could be hit by Brexit.

The big question remains about what would happen on the Irish border.


Spain is less openly prepared that Ireland, France, Germany and The Netherlands in its approach to planning for a no-deal Brexit.

Economy Minister, Nadia Calvino, in London on 29 October said that Spain was supporting the European Commission negotiations and - for the time being - nothing was being done to prepare for no-deal.

There is not yet a published contingency plan - and we will report the news should one appear.

This is unsettling news for hundreds of thousands of UK nationals resident in Spain. If they follow the EC guidance - as with the other EU27 countries, Spain should offer and try to agree reciprocal arrangements with the UK in the event of no-deal.

A key issue between the UK and Spain is the status of Gibraltar. In the event of no-deal, the protocol on Gibraltar - and included in the negotiated Brexit “Withdrawal Agreement” - will not come into effect.

The authorities in Gibraltar, however, have pointed out that on one crucial issue - customs - the challenges are not as acute as they would be at UK borders, because Gibraltar is already outside the customs union.

The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, has said his government will step up the pace of its no-deal contingency planning if there is still no agreement on the UK's withdrawal from the EU on 1 January 2019 - three months before Brexit is due to happen.

John ShuttleworthComment