UK to publish a set of 70 Brexit 'no-deal' guidelines.

In January 2018, the European Commission published a set of 68 regulatory guidelines, outlining the position and impact for the UK and EU when Brexit is complete – whenever that turns out to be – and which, in the event of a 'no-deal', spells out the situation pertaining from 30 March 2019.

Meanwhile, the situation regarding Brexit on the work of ‘decentralised’ European Agencies, has been dealt with on a case by case basis.  This has particularly impacted those bodies that were physically located in the UK - such as the European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency.

In the final analysis, however, wherever the EU regulatory body is to be found, the sum total of the impacts on stakeholders – citizens, businesses and governments across Europe - are profound.  

Brexit Partners have reported on many of these aspects of Brexit as information has come into the public domain – our website insights are a catalogue of things that will change.  The surprise for many is the breadth of change to which all ‘stakeholders’ have to respond.

One observation that is now coming into sharp focus.  Brexit is a far, far, easier task – both politically and practically - for the European Union than it is for the UK.

At 23:00 GMT (midnight, Central European Time) on 29 March 2019, the UK leaves the European Union.  At that precise moment, the effect of the referendum is that the UK becomes, in EU terms, a “Third Country”. 

Presently, the EU comprises 28 EU States, including UK – and every other nation and state in the World is a ‘third country’.

Yes, there are agreements that range from bi-lateral to global between the EU (that is with each and every one of the 28 States in the EU equally) and other ‘third’ countries.

But the overwhelming majority of EU Treaties, law, regulations and procedures pertain within the bloc – that is, common across the 28 states with no specific agreement that extends to third countries.

This matters because, in a ‘hard’ Brexit, all the EU has to do is strike the UK from the list of nation states to whom the Treaty, law, regulation or procedure applies – and nothing changes except the scope, which is simply reduced by one nation.

In this event, however, the UK – now a ‘third country’ - is outside the operational and juridical privileges that are open only to EU members.  And the European Commission has, so far, published 68 areas of citizen, business, organisational and government life that the UK will be excluded from at the moment of Brexit.  Brexit Partners have worked through the set and built these into the Brexit preparation and planning activities for clients across a number of industry sectors.

The Dutch Government have set up a short online Impact Assessment (named a “Brexit Scan”) for businesses, large and small, so that they can be alerted to the business impacts – giving them as much lead-time as possible time to make the necessary preparations and changes. 

The UK, on the other hand, is starting with a blank canvas.  From an environment where the majority of law and regulation was set as an integral part of the bloc, we have to fill the void with domestic law and regulations – and begin to negotiate bi-lateral agreements with some 180 other countries and unions from scratch… including the European Union that we have spent 40 years framing and forming the laws that govern us.

If anyone is in any doubt as to what the status of ‘third country’ means, they have only to look through the catalogue of impact analyses on the European Commission website (or contact and we can take you through the relevant ones for your situation).

The UK Government proposes to publish a set of its own guidelines to a ‘no-deal’ Brexit from Thursday (24 August 2018) through to the end of September.  Advance publicity says there will be around 70.  We shall see if it is mere coincidence that this follows the EU 68 guides!  We will study and report back after publication.

Brexit represents a seismic shift for citizens and businesses in the EU – and whatever term represents more than seismic for the UK.  The main issue for businesses planning for continuity, is that the there are, as yet, no fixed rules against which to plan.  Brexit is proving to be the ultimate challenge in dynamic planning capabilities.  The environment is shifting day by day as the impact of personal and political decisions are felt.

Just one small example that we reported on last week, the European Medicines Agency is effectively in lock-down with no applications for licensing of new drugs for people or animals being accepted for an indefinite period.  It was a simple consequence that by the time that Brexit comes into effect, agencies such as the EMA would have to be relocated into Europe – in this case from London to Amsterdam – simple.  Or not so simple – nobody could have foreseen that employees would rather leave the EMA than be arbitrarily relocated.  And the consequence – Matt Hancock, the UK Minister of Health and responsible for the NHS has requested stockpiling of drugs as Brexit no-deal contingency – and asked for urgent scenario planning to begin on how to deal with those items with a short shelf-life, that cannot be stockpiled.

Brexit Partners have identified and catalogued over 100 such impacts that organisations and business need to be preparing for right now.

Dominic Raab, UK Minister in charge of Brexit negotiations, travels to Brussels this week to continue negotiations with the EU.  His wish is to: "clearly set out the steps that people, businesses and public services need to take in the unlikely event that we don't reach an agreement" with the EU.

Whilst Downing Street has said that it wants to ensure that "consumers and businesses are not harmed" by the possibility of no deal being agreed, we commend them to read the EC guidelines.  And to repeat – if push comes to shove, its just too easy for the EU – simply cross out every reference to UK in every document and the status quo continues seamlessly with 27 instead of 28 nations.  Meanwhile the UK has to make a case that Brexit does not mean a Brexit that leaves the country as just another ‘third country’.

John ShuttleworthComment