Parliamentary Select Committee questions Defra’s readiness for a ‘no deal’ Brexit as EU prepares for this scenario.

London

The European Commission has issued a series of ‘notices to stakeholders', which set out the legal and practical ramifications for different sectors if the UK was to leave the EU with no withdrawal agreement in place.

The Committee has, today, 30 April 2018, written to the responsible Minister, Michael Gove, to ask what assessment the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has made regarding the impact of this scenario - and what steps it has taken to mitigate that impact.

The letter full text of the letter can be obtained on request.

The Committee questions Michael Gove’s assertion that ‘an agreed time-limited implementation period is now in place.’  They maintain that: “this is clearly not an opinion shared by the Commission, who recently updated their Brexit Preparedness webpage to include a statement reflecting that, as agreement on the withdrawal text has not been reached in full and that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ and a transition agreement ‘is not certain at this stage’.”

Given that an implementation period is not a certainty and that the scenario set out in the Commission’s notices to stakeholders of the ‘UK as a third country could be realised in eleven months’ time’ – the Committee would be interested to understand more about thenGovernment’s assessment of the impact of this scenario.  

The Commission has set out detailed implications for different sectors in its notices under some broad categories:

1.     UK individuals/ businesses exporting to the EU will need to provide additional documentation and undergo additional checks (e.g. plants and plant products will need phytosanitary certificates).

Question: For the sectors covered by Defra’s remit, does the department hold a complete list of the procedures that Government and Government agencies would need to have in place to enable UK exports to the EU if the UK was being treated as a third country?

2.     Some UK individuals/ businesses will need to obtain additional permissions from the EU (e.g. UK vessels will need EU authorisation to fish in EU waters) or to be recognised by the EU (e.g. for food imported into the EU, the establishment from which it is dispatched, obtained and prepared in will need to be listed by the Commission).

Question: For each such instance mentioned in one of the Commission’s notices that fall within Defra’s remit, please confirm whether it is possible to obtain that permission/ recognition within eleven months.

3.     Some UK professional qualifications/ certification will no longer be recognised, and so individuals will need to apply for accreditation from an EU Member State if they wish to work in the EU (e.g. in relation to transporting live animals, transporters, drivers and attendants would need to apply for a new certificate with an EU Member State).

Question: For each such instance mentioned in one of the Commission’s notices that fall within Defra’s remit, please confirm whether it is possible to obtain that accreditation within eleven months.

4.     Some UK organisations will no longer be recognised by the EU, and so may not be able to handle EU business (e.g. UK ship recycling facilities will no longer be included on the list of facilities at which an EU ship can be recycled).

Question: For each such instance mentioned in one of the Commission’s notices that fall within Defra’s remit, please provide details of the economic value of the business that will be lost.

5.     Some trade will no longer be allowed (e.g. the EU will no longer be able export certain types of waste to the UK).

Question: For each such instance mentioned in one of the Commission’s notices that fall within Defra’s remit, please provide details of the economic value of the trade that will be lost.

Lord Teverson, Chairman of the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee states that: “These requirements will clearly come at a cost of businesses and individuals.” He asks on behalf of the Committee what consideration has been given to providing support to meet these costs?

He asks:

"what assessment has been made of the impact on the UK economy if businesses and individuals are unable to (or choose not to) meet the additional requirements and so cease doing business with the EU?"

The letter concludes by noting that: “whilst most actions are for individuals or businesses - some are for the UK Government (e.g. ensuring the UK is listed by the Commission for public and animal health purposes to enable the UK to export food to the EU)” and asks whether the UK Government has already agreed with the EU Commission a list of all such requirements - and whether the UK Government is “confident that they could all be met by March 2019, if required?”

John Shuttleworth is a Partner with Brexit Partners