Countdown to Brexit: 96 days – UK Government call-to-arms for 'no-deal' planning

The UK Government has just updated its Brexit advice to businesses with the recommendation that they: “ensure they are prepared and enact their own no-deal plans.”

This was triggered by the Cabinet meeting on 18 December when they: “agreed to proceed with the Government’s next phase of no-deal planning.”

“Preparing for no-deal is now an operational priority for the Government.”  To that end over £5bn has been allocated to fund more than 500 Government ‘workstreams’ that actively planning for no-deal Brexit at 23:00 GMT on Friday 29 March 2019.

It’s three months until Brexit – and the UK Government notice states that: “we have now reached the point where we need to accelerate and intensify these preparations.  It has always been the case that as we get nearer to March 2019, preparations for a no-deal scenario would have to be accelerated.   This means we will set in motion our remaining no-deal plans.  We recommend businesses now also ensure they are prepared and enact their own no-deal plans.”


A ‘no-deal’ scenario is one where the UK leaves the EU and becomes a ‘third country’ on 29 March 2019 - without a Withdrawal Agreement, a transition period, or a framework for a future relationship in place between the UK and the EU (the ‘Political Declaration’.

The UK Government – in parallel with the European Commission and each of the other remaining 27 EU countries - is now ramping up preparations for a scenario where there is no UK-EU agreement in place on exit day.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 is intended to ensure that there will be a ‘functioning statute book - whatever the outcome of negotiations’.  Other primary legislation, secondary legislation, and regulations have been passed or are in progress:

  • The Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018 - establishes a UK nuclear safeguards regime as UK leaves Euratom;

  • The Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 - ensures UK can continue to impose, update, and lift sanctions and anti-money laundering regimes;

  • The Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act 2018 - gives the UK the powers it needs to support British hauliers to continue operating internationally after exiting the EU;

  • The Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill and the Trade Bill, presently under scrutiny - will ensure UK has functioning customs and trade regimes;

  • There has been “significant progress in putting in place the staffing, infrastructure and policy we would need in a no-deal scenario.”. For instance:

    • More than 10,000 civil servants are now working to accelerate necessary preparations for Brexit - and a further 5,000 to be recruited

    • Defra - responsible for a sizeable proportion of the Government’s EU exit work – recruited 1300

    • UK Border Force is recruiting 600 ‘frontline’ officers – and a further 1000 staff to ensure ‘flexibility’

    • The Competition and Markets Authority will take on an additional role as the UK’s state aid regulator

    • The Information Commissioner’s Office will support businesses on new data sharing arrangements

    • New IT systems - including a ‘market surveillance’ system;  and a system to improve the capabilities of our Export Health Certificates

    • New international safeguards agreements - including with the International Atomic Energy Agency

    • New bilateral Nuclear Co-operation Agreements and Air Services Agreements

    • Working with other ‘third countries’ and ‘international partners’ to seek continuity of the effects of international agreements which the Government participates in as a member of the EU

UK Government Guidance

The Government has written to 140,000 businesses which is - by their own admission - a small proportion of those affected by Brexit.  We followed the pointer and completed the online questionnaire.  It turns out that the questions help businesses select from the 108 ‘no-deal technical notices’ spelling out the impacts that have, so far, been published. 

In our case it means we have 29 to read, digest and respond to by 29 March 2019.

Once complete, businesses will need advice on the implications and how they should best respond in their planning for a ‘cliff-edge’ Brexit on 29 March.  We have been studying and reporting on the technical notices since April 2018 – contact us in the first instance for insight and guidance.

Here is the navigation through the online questionnaire.

UK Government online questionnaire

Prepare your business for the UK leaving the EU by using the online tool to find out:

  • what your business will need to do to prepare for the UK leaving the EU

  • what’s changing in your industry

  • information on specific rules and regulations

Answer the following 7 questions to get guidance relevant to your business:

  1. What does your business do? Choose all the sectors and areas that your business operates in

  2. Do you sell goods in the UK, import or do business abroad?  Yes/No

  3. Do you employ anyone from another European country? This includes countries that are in the EU and Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

  4. Do you use personal data that you send, receive or store in another EU country?  Personal data includes customers’ addresses, staff working hours or information you give to a delivery company.

  5. Does your business use or rely on intellectual property (IP) protection?  Intellectual property protection includes copyright, trade marks and patents.

  6. Does your business get EU or UK government funding?  EU funding includes the Creative Europe Fund or Horizon 2020 scheme.

  7. Does your business sell to the public sector?  This includes if you sell products or services to organisations in central or local government, and some non-government organisations, such as hospitals or schools.

The UK government approach – “prioritising stability”

The UK Government’s approach in no-deal scenario is: “a commitment to prioritise stability for citizens, consumers and businesses, to ensure the smooth operation of business, infrastructure and public services and to minimise any disruption to the economy.

“We want businesses to be reassured that, even in a no deal scenario in March 2019, the Government will seek to do what it can to make the transition as smooth as possible and allow time to make significant changes.”

The 108 technical notices include guidance on:

  • Human medicines

  • Qualified person certification

  • Automated, risk-based customs controls

  • The financial services framework adjusted as the UK will no longer be inside the EU – a Temporary Permissions Regime will allow EU firms and funds passporting into the UK to continue providing services in the UK for a temporary period after exit.

  • UK aid organisations will be able to continue bidding for funding from the core budget of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Mechanism (ECHO)

  • Arrangement to ensure the UK meets its international nuclear safeguards and non-proliferation obligations

  • The Office for Nuclear Regulation to deliver a domestic nuclear safeguards regime.

John ShuttleworthComment