Countdown to Brexit: 55 days – Insufficient time for parliament to replace EU legislation in event of a no-deal threatens everyday life as we know it
The Government has issued 104 "technical notices" – guidelines on the practical impacts of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit in less than eight weeks’ time. Everything from Nuclear Energy, Medicines, driving permits and taking your pet to Europe.
The default position is that the UK will leave the European Union at precisely 23:00 GMT on 29 March 2019 - and with each day that passes, a no-deal Brexit becomes more likely.
The list of legislation needed to replace laws that govern us and that have been set by the EU is long and complex. We have reported on progress with some aspects of society – and been warning since mid-last-year that work should be timetabled to complete the programme by March as part of the contingency planning for a no-deal scenario.
There were 8 Acts of Parliament to go through the full constitutional process - and some 600 regulations and laws that could be dealt with by civil servants acting on behalf of Parliament for enactment – although this lack of Parliamentary scrutiny is unparalleled and raised a lot of concerns about who is really running the country.
Yesterday, Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, said that despite re-assigning and recruiting 10,000 civil servants onto Brexit preparations – and with another 5,000 to add – there is insufficient time to complete the programme by 29 March and that UK may need a delay to Brexit on these grounds alone.
It seems that Government has lost sight of the 70 international trade deals that the UK is party to as a member of the EU – with the ironic timing that the EU-Japan Trade Deal began on 1 February – adding one of the biggest free trade pacts on the World with open access to each others’ markets.
As time runs out, emergency plans are now being put into action while the nation's politicians try to escape their deadlock over a Brexit deal.
A lot of the effects are on business. UK farmers face a nine-month wait for approval to export organic goods to the EU. Fishermen could be blocked from EU waters. And manufacturers fear their supply chains drying up.
For this weekend insight, we look at the impact on citizens and everyday life. From the 104 Technical Notices, this isn’t exhaustive – and are worst case scenarios.
Renew your passport early
At the moment, British citizens can enter 'Schengen area' countries with a valid passport even if they only have a day left before they expire. From 30 March you may not be able to travel to these countries if you have less than six months left on your passport.
The government is advising travellers - children AND adults - to renew any passports that will have less than six months' remaining validity at the time of their trip. The government note warns: "If your passport does not meet these criteria, you may be denied entry to any of the Schengen area countries, and you should renew your passport before you travel,".
It goes on to say people with expiring passports should renew them "soon" because the passport office can get "busy"
Taking your pet abroad - visit the vet four months in advance
There would be a huge surge in red tape for pet owners who want to take their beloved animals abroad. Presently “dogs, cats and ferrets” can travel anywhere in the EU as long as they have a "pet passport". The main requirement is that three weeks before the first visit, owners must go to the vet to have their pet vaccinated against rabies and microchipped.
In a no-deal Brexit, pet owners will have to visit a vet at least four months before visiting the EU. "This means pet owners intending to travel to the EU on 30 March 2019 should have discussed requirements with their vet before the end of November 2018," according to the Government note.
The animal would have to have a rabies vaccination followed by a blood test at least 30 days before travel, to prove the vaccination worked. Once that was completed, the pet owner would have to visit a vet to obtain a health certificate. But this cannot be done more than 10 days before the date the holiday starts.
Holiday flights to Europe
Flights looked as though they could be grounded in a worse case n--deal Brexit. The EU this week conceded a seven-month transition period for companies wishing to fly to Europe to become EU compliant. Easyjet has moved early to comply – but BA will have more difficulty demonstrating that it is operating under EU rather than UK rules.
British airlines hoping to fly planes between the EU and UK would have to win permission from each separate country, the government admits. European firms wanting to carry passengers between Britain and the continent would have to seek authority from the UK.
UK airlines would also lose the automatic right to fly planes between two EU destinations, such as Milan and Paris. The Government says it "envisages" granting permission to EU airlines and getting permission to fly in the EU.
Amyas Morse - Head of the UK National Audit Office - said there was a risk that flights would be grounded if "goodwill" fails. He told MPs: “It’s not implausible, it’s not impossible. It could happen deliberately, it could happen by mistake. It depends on how friendly or unfriendly the accompanying music is while all this goes on.”
Take out insurance and buy flexible tickets for Eurostar
Eurostar services could be suspended in a no deal Brexit. The Government has told international train passengers - including the Eurostar - to make sure they have "insurance and ticket terms and conditions" that are "sufficient to cover possible disruption".
That implies passengers should buy FLEXIBLE tickets - not the fixed cheap ones that are popular for their low cost. The UK will need bilateral deals with France, Belgium and the Netherlands to ensure international trains keep running.
Without such a deal, Britain has proposed recognising EU operator licences until March 2021 to ensure services can continue. But this isn't guaranteed, and UK operators would have to reapply with the EU.
Former Transport Secretary, Andrew Adonis, claimed the Technical Notice "seems to be saying that the vital train link between Britain and Europe could be severed.
Be ready to go through airport security twice
Air passengers changing flights in the EU may have to undergo two security screenings under a no-deal exit. This is the procedure for ‘third countries’ – and travellers will know about the time needed and long walks between terminals when transiting between ‘international’ flights in hub-airports such as Dubai. Imagine that for all inter-Europe transits.
Travellers boarding a plane in the UK to fly to a European airport, before changing flights for an onward destination, would be screened in Britain as they are now. Then a second check in the EU before boarding a connecting flight.
“Currently passengers flying from the UK and transferring at an EU airport for an onward flight do not have to be re-screened at that EU airport, because the UK applies, and exceeds, the EU baseline aviation security measures,” says a Department for Transport briefing note.
“If there is no deal, and the EU decides not to recognise the UK aviation security system, then passengers and their luggage will have to be re-screened when changing flights in EU hub airports.”
Find alternatives to Netflix, Spotify and the BBC
Britons could be barred from accessing their accounts for Netflix, Spotify and other online entertainment while travelling to EU states in a no-deal Brexit.
Under the EU-wide "portability regulation", which took force in April, citizens can access accounts set up and based in one country while visiting other member states. The Government Technical Notice says: "The portability regulation will cease to apply to UK nationals when they travel to the EU. This means online content service providers will not be required or able to offer cross-border access to UK consumers under the EU Regulation. UK consumers may see restrictions to their online content services when they temporarily visit the EU."
It will be harder to drive in the EU
Currently a UK driving licence is the only thing visitors need to get behind the wheel on the continent. This is whether hiring a car locally – or taking your own car across the Channel.
But under a no-deal Brexit, you may need an International Driving Permit. The £5.50 documents are currently only available at fewer than 100 post offices. The plan is to extend to 2,500 post offices from February. 7million Britons will need one.
Insurance companies are already writing to policy holders to warn of the end of EU insurance as an integral part of annual renewals. Drivers will need to apply for and carry a 'green card' to prove you have the right car insurance.
The certificates are free of charge and available from insurance companies. Government warns firms may increase administration fees in order to cope with the extra bureaucracy.
Those who forget their green cards would be forced to buy expensive "frontier" insurance in the country they are visiting.
Mobile phone roaming charges may be hiked
Mobile phone roaming charges could be hiked - less than two years after they were slashed across the EU. Costs were cut in June 2017, meaning there is no extra fee for using a British device on the continent for calls, texts and data.
Operators would not be bound by the agreement if the UK crashes out without a deal. The biggest companies, servicing 85% of customers - Three, EE, O2 and Vodafone - have not yet announced any plans to reimpose roaming charges after Brexit.
But in terms of the entire mobile market, "surcharge-free roaming when you travel to the EU could no longer be guaranteed," the government has warned.
Northern Ireland may face electricity blackouts
Northern Ireland will be forced to take drastic measures to stop the lights going out. A no-deal Brexit would scraps the present single and integrated ‘all-island’ electricity market - shared by Northern Ireland and the Republic - leaving it "without any legal basis".
This would make both markets "less efficient, with potential effects for producers and consumers on both sides of the border," the government warns. And it "may be necessary to seek additional [legal] powers to preserve security of supply."
To stop the lights going out, Northern Ireland would have to take more electricity from British power stations through an "interconnector" running under the Irish Sea. However, Northern Ireland's Transmission System Operator "may need to rely on fall-back arrangements" to ensure power keeps flowing, the Government warns.
The Government has announced it will "take all possible measures" to keep the all-island market running. There has been talk of barges in the Irish Sea.
Dustin Benton of Green Alliance warned: " Any emergency action to keep the lights on, both in Northern Ireland and across the rest of the UK, would likely be highly polluting and expensive."
Check your rights under package holiday bookings
Package holidaymakers could be left stranded with no legal protection if the firm they booked with goes bust. Currently UK citizens have automatic "insolvency protection" if they book with a package holiday provider that's based anywhere in the EU.
In a no-deal Brexit, such protection would only apply if the firms are "targeting" the UK market. That means those booking with, say, a cheaper Spanish firm online that has no UK presence could be unprotected.
Even if the UK government could act, in practice it will be much harder to take enforcement action against foreign firms because other countries will no longer recognise UK courts.
End of rights to take action over dangerous products
Government notices reveal another facet of the same problem - UK courts not being recognised – which will strip away citizens consumer rights for EU goods bought online.
Alex Neill of consumer group Which? warned: "A no-deal Brexit would massively weaken people's rights to take action when they purchase faulty or dangerous products from outside the UK. The Government's advice that we all become experts in international consumer law is hopelessly unrealistic. "Securing a good deal with the EU is vital to ensure that Brexit doesn't result in a bonfire of consumer rights and protections.”
Smoking becomes more graphic
The horrific warning pictures on cigarette packets will be replaced by Australian versions in a no-deal Brexit. They are even more gruesome than the ones we have now - showing a foot ridden with peripheral vascular disease, a clogged artery, a bleeding brain and high-resolution teeth stained black.
The photos will be changed in a No Deal Brexit because the European Commission owns the copyright on ones we currently use. The UK would be unable to use them after 29 March 2019.
Families in breakdown could be trapped in limbo
Families who are midway through divorce or child custody cases involving another EU country could find themselves trapped in limbo. A no-deal Brexit means the UK will cease to be part of co-operation between EU family courts on 29 March 2019. Instead the UK will fall back on legal conventions drawn up in The Hague - but these are complicated and do not cover every area of the law.
The government has advised families with ongoing cases to seek legal advice if they will not finish by Brexit Day. The Government technical note says: "Broadly speaking, cases ongoing on exit day will continue to proceed under the current rules. However, we cannot guarantee that EU courts will follow the same principle, nor that EU courts will accept or recognise any judgments stemming from these cases.”
Regular Bus runs timetabled across the Channel face cancellation
The Government warns UK coach operators may be unable to access the EU at all. Currently, the EU is part of the “Interbus Agreement”, which allows for coach operators to run occasional and regular services in other countries.
The plan is for Britain to rejoin the agreement as a third country member. The new agreement will only apply to occasional services - so coach holidays and tours can continue.
But regular services would not be permitted.
The documents urge UK operators to rewrite their terms and conditions to allow them to subcontract some or all of their journeys to EU-based operators. The document also warns new checks at EU borders are could cause delays at ports. However, the Government promises “contingency arrangements to manage the flow of traffic.”
Citizens may be ignored while business gets a tax cut
Dominic Raab said the Government will “pull every lever we've got” to ease business “disruption” if the UK leaves the EU with no agreement in March 2019.
The then Brexit Secretary even left open a radical idea of slashing corporation tax from 19% to 10% - which would firms a huge tax break while millions of working families struggle.
He spoke in October on the fringes of the Tory conference – just hours after Chancellor, Philip Hammond, said he was reserving “fiscal firepower” to “support the economy” in no-deal Brexit.
Hospitals fear running out of medicine
A leaked warning revealed NHS chiefs fear running out of drugs in a no-deal Brexit .
NHS Providers, the body for individual hospital trusts, sounded the alert in a private memo to Tory ministers and the head of the NHS. The body's chief executive Chris Hopson declared there is a lack of communication nationally about the consequences of leaving the EU without a deal.
"Without national planning and coordination, there could be both stockpiles and shortages of medicines and medical devices," he wrote
As a result, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, revealed plans to fly in medicines to treat millions of patients if there's no deal. He said that officials are drawing up the plans to import lifesaving drugs if ports are blocked, meaning they can't be shipped to the UK.
Speaking to Parliament, he told MPs: "We're working with industry to prepare for the potential need for stockpiling in the event of a no-deal Brexit."
37 million packs of medicines are imported to the UK from the EU every month, and the NHS is preparing for a doomsday scenario to prevent supplies running dry.
Everyday medicines and perfumes could become more expensive
Currently, popular ingredients in cold medicines can usually be traded within the EU without a licence. In a no deal, a licence will be required to trade these so-called "precursors".
A no-deal Brexit means that firms who want to trade such chemicals with the EU will have to register with the Home Office, which can cost between £109 and £3,665.
They will also need an import/export license, which costs £24. Critics say this could push up prices for consumers in the shops.
Similarly, cosmetics firms will be slapped with more red tape to prove their products are safe for human health. Currently they can use one legal “nominated person” to certify a product for the whole EU market.
But if there’s a no-deal Brexit, UK checks won’t be recognised in the EU - and EU checks won't be recognised in the UK. That means two sets of checks.
Supermarkets face having to stockpile food
Food is being stockpiled as a contingency – with the Brexit Secretary stating that “Britain has an adequate food supply" – whilst indicating that it is up to businesses to stockpile food. He told MPs that: "It would be wrong to describe it as the Government doing the stockpiling."
Potential for 'civil unrest'
Universities and business studies have identified triggers that could spark "civil unrest" within weeks of a no-deal Brexit. A number have announced that they are actively planning for such an outcome. A spokesman for Amazon said: "Like any business, we consider a wide range of scenarios in planning discussions so that we’re prepared to continue serving customers and small businesses who count on Amazon, even if those scenarios are very unlikely."
The Government has been actively hiring experts on civil emergencies to deal with leaving the EU – and has put army reservist on standby.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government recruited three specialists workers to work on disaster planning – with their job description warning that any takers must ensure public authorities are ready to "prepare for, respond to, and recover from civil emergencies of all types."
Motorways face becoming lorry parks
The M26 has suffered overnight closures for it to be turned into a lorry park - in case of a no-deal Brexit. Highways England began preparations in October for the motorway in Kent to be used as a holding area for lorries if there is gridlock at ports like Dover.
Tom Tugendhat, Tory MP for Tonbridge and Malling, was furious. He said his community was kept in the dark about the M26 work after receiving assurances that nothing was planned.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Tugendhat said: "It's come to a pretty pass when a member finds out that works have begun on a motorway to turn that motorway into a parking lot without consultation either with the local community or with surrounding members."
Caviar parties are doomed!
It appears that caviar imports will be snarled up - or stop completely - in a no-deal Brexit.
Sturgeon eggs join snowdrops, orchids and reptiles in the list of 'endangered species' that would need import and export permits to cross an EU border. The Government notice indicates that British citizens may only be allowed to bring in 125g of caviar for personal use!