Countdown to Brexit: 78 days – No-deal Brexit focuses on consumer protection and national security

For MPs, it’s ‘day 2’ of the resumed debate on the Withdrawal Agreement.  But whilst they are focused on the vote next week on whether to accept or reject the ‘deal’ – elsewhere preparations for a no-deal Brexit continue move apace.

For the civil service the priority is thinking through the impacts of a no-deal, commissioning the necessary regulatory and operational changes - there are over 500 workstreams in progress – and issuing guidance to citizens and businesses – there are over 100 UK no-deal Technical Notices published to date.

To that end, the Cabinet Office has commissioned £75m of Brexit-related consulting – supported by contracts to some of the world’s biggest consultancy firms including familiar names such as Deloitte, Accenture and PwC.  Three of the contracts - together worth £25m - went to the American firms: Bain, McKinsey and Boston Consulting.

In addition, there are contracts awarded under the title "Health and Community" that are entirely focused upon preparations for Brexit.

The House of Lords, meanwhile, is preparing to scrutinise a Treaty on the future security of the nation look - and into consumer rights post-Brexit.

They don’t have much detail to go on as future relationship between the EU and the UK as the Political Declaration states that - amongst other objectives – parties are: “determined to work together to safeguard…consumer and environmental protection and cooperation against internal and external threats to their values and interests”.

One Government Department has published a guide to consumer rights in the event of a ‘no-deal’

“Many of the things UK consumers buy are from businesses based in the UK either on the high street or online.  For these sales, your rights will not have changed.  You will still be able to rely on the same rights you have now after we leave the EU.”

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal – if you buy from a business based in the EU, you MAY be covered by the consumer protections in the country where the business is based. UK and EU consumer law is currently very similar.  However, countries may have brought in consumer protections in slightly different ways or offer different protections to EU based consumers and non-EU based consumers.  Always check the terms and conditions offered by the specific business and what protections apply to the contract.

If you have a dispute with a business based in the EU after Brexit on 29 March 2019 it is “less likely that you will be able to use the UK courts to try to put things right.”

Future security partnership between the UK and EU

The government’s Future Security Partnership (FSP) with the EU will provide a framework to support the security of the UK and Europe, and the operational capabilities to keep people safe.

The Political Declaration adopted by the UK and European Council on 25 November 2018 establishes the parameters of an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership across law enforcement and criminal justice, foreign policy, security and defence, and areas of thematic cooperation. It will respect the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and the autonomy of the European Union.

The issue is that the proposal was built as part of the negotiations on the assumption that the Brexit ‘deal’ – which includes the Political Declaration – would be accepted.  This now seems almost certain to be rejected by MPs on 15 January.  In a no-deal scenario:

  • The UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 without a Withdrawal Agreement or Political Declaration.

    • There will be no implementation period and no agreement on the future relationship;

    • There will be no agreements in place on how to wind down or conclude UK-EU cooperation such as those set out in Part III of the Withdrawal Agreement;

    • The UK will not have negotiated any new agreements (legal or otherwise) with the EU, or its member states;

    • Cooperation will continue only on the basis of non-EU international agreements where they exist and have been ratified by EU member states and the UK, and that all domestic and EU member states' legislation is in place to enable this;

    • The UK will no longer be part of, or able to access EU databases, systems and networks;

    • The UK will not participate in, have access to, or form agreements with EU agencies, bodies or institutions of the EU;

    • Restrictions on the exchange of personal data would make data flows between the UK and the EU more difficult and add administrative costs, including due to reduced cooperation between UK and EU data protection authorities.

  • In a no-deal scenario, there would not be an implementation period.  This means that any operational cooperation that relies on EU tools and instruments at the point of exit, would stop.  This would create immediate legal and operational uncertainty with the risk of operational disruption and potential security implications.

  • The government would seek to mitigate the effects of a no-deal scenario on the UK’s security.

  • This assessment applies to the whole of the UK, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Although foreign policy and defence are reserved matters, Scotland and Northern Ireland have devolved responsibilities with regard to areas of security including justice and policing.  Some areas of thematic security are devolved, including health security.  The UK government is working collaboratively and in partnership with the devolved administrations in these areas.

  • This assessment also applies as is relevant to each Crown Dependency and Overseas Territory, including Gibraltar.  For the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, the UK will be seeking a future partnership that takes into consideration their current relationship with the EU on security cooperation, noting that the UK is responsible for the defence and international relations of each territory.

Cabinet Office contracts for Brexit consultancy

The contracts are described as for "the supply of Cabinet Office consultancy support for EU Exit".  Each is due to run until 30 April 2019, but with the option for them to be renewed for a further year at the same cost.

The deals - uncovered by Sky News today - were quietly posted on an unobtrusive part of the government website just before Christmas - eight months after they had come into action.

Despite each contract originally running to more than 200 pages, information was removed so that it is impossible to know who in Government signed off the agreements - and what work is actually involved.

The contracts were awarded to a small number of pre-vetted high-profile international companies under “restricted” process – ending any chance of smaller, Brexit-focused consultancies winning a contracts include:

  • The Boston Consulting Group - £10m

  • McKinsey and Company, Inc. United Kingdom - £5m

  • Accenture (UK) Limited - £5m

  • Deloitte LLP - £10m

  • Ernst & Young LLP - £10m

  • Mott Macdonald Limited - £5m

  • PA Consulting Services Limited - £10m

  • PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP - £10m

John ShuttleworthComment