36 things that will happen if Britain crashes out of Europe with no deal

From manufacturing to pet passports, the disruption would be immense

July 27, 2018
Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images
Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images

Future historians of Britain’s greatness, mark this week in your diary. The prime minister really has admitted that we will be stockpiling food and medicines in case of a no-deal Brexit.

Do not be fooled by the Brexiteers’ subtle rebrand of no deal as the “World Trade deal.” WTO terms would do immense damage to British industry. Not a single advanced economy in the world trades solely on them. Most important, the WTO only governs general trade frameworks—it has nothing to say on anything from aviation to food safety.

If “no deal” was the will of the people, here is a small selection of what they apparently willed.

1. First things first, the economy. The pound will almost certainly plummet, although it may not happen overnight as no deal would have been on the cards for some weeks before 30th March. Inflation is likely to rise sharply. Businesses will activate their contingency plans. The UK stops being seen as a reliable economic hub. More on all of this later.

2. Three million European Union citizens in the UK and one million Britons in the EU will lose all automatic rights and protections overnight. Simply, they will have no guaranteed legal status.

3. Planes will stop flying. Aviation is currently governed by the Single European Sky, European Aviation Safety Agency and aviation single market. You fall out of those, and pilots and planes lose their certification overnight. Ignore the people who think they are being original in pointing out that non-EU countries can fly planes to the EU. Non-EU countries aren’t voluntarily crashing out of their supervisory aviation mechanisms. Oh, and don’t even think about escaping to the United States. UK/US air travel is governed by an EU agreement too.

4. Food will rot. We import about half of our food and feed, and 70 per cent of that comes from the EU. The bosses of Calais and Dover have warned of 30-mile tailbacks and possible infrastructural collapse. Experts have already warned that supermarkets will soon run out of supplies. (Hence the stockpiling.)

5. On the subject of food, many farms will struggle immensely. Dairy tariffs average 40 per cent and meat tariffs can be much higher—so they won’t be exporting it to their largest market anymore.

6. Out of the single market and customs union, supply chains are severed overnight. That paralyses industry. A British-made car may depend on just-in-time components from multiple EU sources which travel across the Channel several times without tariffs or checks. The list of major products made exclusively in Britain is vanishingly small.

7. Out of the Common Fisheries Policy, there will be no legal basis for landing catches in the EU. Given that we export most of the fish we catch, many fishers will be crippled by new market blocks.

8. There is as yet no guarantee that nuclear safeguards will be in place to cover the crash out of Euratom. EDF has warned of power shortages. In an extreme scenario, Hinkley Point would have to be mothballed, resulting in a compensation claim of £22bn.

9. Radioisotopes for radiotherapy are partially governed by Euratom. More to the point, we don’t produce any and we can’t stockpile them either. Many of them will decay while waiting to clear the Channel ports.

10. We’ll be out of the single energy market, which means we’ll need to produce a lot more of our own electricity—placing significant strain on the National Grid. Northern Ireland would, it seems, require emergency generators in the Irish Sea.

11. Immediate departure from the European Medicines Agency means no more access to Europe-wide clinical trials, and no more easy regulation or access to new drugs.

12. Medicines will have to be stockpiled in the context of border chaos.

13. The end of Horizon 2020 ends EU research grants for labs and universities. Current projects will also be jeopardised.

14.  10 per cent of our doctors and 7 per cent of our nurses come from the EU. Many of them will simply leave the country, but there could in any case be a crisis of mutual recognition in which qualifications aren’t recognised. The same goes for vets.

15. Air pollution is currently monitored by the EU and the UK is legally obliged to maintain certain levels of air quality. Not anymore. The same goes for other environmental benchmarks involving, for example, waterways and beaches.

16. UK tourists will have any number of problems. In no particular order, they will no longer be covered by the EHIC insurance scheme, which all but rules out travel for those with pre-existing conditions; they will no longer be able to drive in the EU without an international driving licence; and they may be liable for visas to travel to the EU.

17. Pet passports will end.

18. UK lorry drivers will no longer have the permits they need to travel into the EU.

19. British consumers will lose multiple protections, whether regarding compensation for cancelled flights or rights in cancelling purchases.

20. We fall out of the EU’s Rapid Alert system that warns member states about faulty or dangerous consumer goods.

21. No digital single market means no access to EU broadcasting networks and the end of automatic free roaming.

22. Data protection falls into immediate limbo. That will prevent data sharing for policing purposes and everyday business transactions, with small businesses the hardest hit by the new regulatory burdens.

23. We leave Europol, and with it our EU-wide police and counter-terrorism cooperation ends.

24. No longer in the European Arrest Warrant, we will have no means of extraditing suspects to or from the EU. Information-sharing instruments will also no longer apply.

25. We will be out of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and European Defence Agency. That means jeopardising current operations and common procurement schemes, and the end to participation in the EU’s wide diplomatic network.

26. Financial services automatically lose their passporting rights, which allow the City of London to function as the EU’s unofficial hub for cross-border banking and financial trading. Valuable transactions will move to Paris and Frankfurt. Thousands of jobs will be on the line and the government will lose vital tax revenue.

27. Loss of passporting rights will void cross-border insurance policies. Passported pension payments to, for example, British expats in Spain, may not be legal.

28. Numerous professional qualifications will become useless as mutual recognition ends. Thousands of British-qualified lawyers, accountants, midwives and masseurs will be unable to practise in EU member states.

29. Students on Erasmus may have to suspend their exchange programmes and planned future exchanges will not go ahead.

30. We fall out of all our EU-brokered trade deals, damaging our trade with countries all over the world. Canada will re-impose WTO tariffs and non-tariff barriers on UK goods until a replacement deal (probably on much more favourable Canadian terms) has been agreed.

31. We lose access to the Galileo programme, which could have serious consequences for satellite navigation.

32. We terminate membership of each EU agency, from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control to the Community Plant Variety Office. These agencies cover everything from intellectual property rights to chemical regulation, and we don’t have bodies to replace them.

33. The UK will depart the EU’s intellectual property regime, with EU trademarks ceasing to have British application. The UK will also be excluded from the EU’s unitary patent framework.

34. Automatically outside the European Court of Justice, all ongoing cases involving the UK will have no legal effect.

35. Thousands of British officials working in EU institutions could lose their jobs—and their pensions. International litigation against the UK could follow—and the EU will certainly sue if the UK refuses pay its divorce settlement.

36. Last but not least, Northern Ireland gets a hard border, which breaches the Good Friday Agreement, re-inflames old tensions and wounds, and creates an active and severe security risk—as well as undermining the Northern Irish economy. Decades of hard work, meanwhile, to normalise the now excellent UK-Irish relationship will be undone overnight.

On the plus side, we’ll still be in Eurovision.