We are all used to the strident headlines about whether or not there will be a deal prior to March 2019, and pronouncements now from Government ministers on whether they believe a deal will be reached.
The position we are now in is this. The Article 50 trigger was pulled, and that takes us until March 2019 for us to exit the EU or before that if a deal is reached. In March 2018, the Government published the Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community (Draft Agreement).
This Draft Agreement contains areas where negotiators have reached agreement, discussion continues or agreement is yet to be reached. It is colour coded, and there is a significant amount of text where agreement has been reached. One of these areas is, for instance, the status of EU residents living and working in the UK. All well and good, you say, agreement has been reached so all is well. Unfortunately not. Each of the areas where negotiators have reached agreement is then subject to ratification by both the UK and the EU. It is this that is referred to as whether or not a deal will be struck. If no deal is made, then all the work, all the areas in green in this document will be to nought and we will ‘crash out’ of the EU in March 2019.
For that deal to be ratified, then Parliament needs the time to consider it properly. Parliament returns from recess in September, then rises for Conference season before resuming in October. Time to move this forward is therefore extremely limited.
This forces prudent planners to think ahead. If that Draft Agreement is NOT ratified, and we therefore crash out without any of these areas being settled, what could happen?
As a prudent security company, we have given this a great deal of thought and are offering our support to clients to help them plan for March 2019.
Will it be Doomsday? If we think back to the riots of 2011, and before that the fuel crisis and blockades of 2000 society can very quickly descend into disorder which affects supplies and leads to panic buying and stockpiling. The conditions for this to happen tend to be insecurity, concern, fear and a trigger factor that lets those things take flight. In 2000, that trigger factor were the blockades, which left people unable to secure fuel, emptying petrol stations and then stores of food. In 2011, contagion spread and many centres were affected by riots with looting, leading to the loss of millions of pounds of stock and harm to thousands of people. Could this happen in 2019?
In the event of no deal, goods seeking entry to the UK may well either be turned away or held up in Customs sheds whilst people try to determine what to do with them.
EU citizens enjoying employment in the UK will no longer be entitled to the social protections of un-employment benefit and the suchlike, and may therefore decide they do not wish to say or may in fact be simply unable to work.
Flights could be stopped, as rules governing their entry into the UK or EU airports fall apart. Immigration queues will undoubtedly grow.
This is not speculation, because these are the very areas where the draft agreement has sought to settle the future.
Given that situation, surely it is sensible to consider the impacts now and try to put plans into place to mitigate them should they become reality. It is exactly that that we are doing now. We are looking at our workforce to determine how many are EU nationals who may have their status changed post March 2019. We are looking at what riot and disorder could mean for our clients, and how we can ensure our workforce continues to report for work and is able to perform their duties. Where data is hosted in the EU, we will consider whether a changed statutory basis will affect our ability to access it.
All of this may, of course, not come to pass. With the timelines for our Parliament, it is possible by the end of October that we will get a good indication of whether the draft agreement will be ratified. It may be that a so called Henry VIII Act could provide the power to sever existing statute that relies upon EU law, and allow the UK Parliament to replace it through statutory instrument, which can be enacted quickly. However, in contentious areas such as EU residency and workers, I would suspect it very unlikely that Parliament would be happy for Statutory Instruments to be used, wishing instead to have the ability to debate in full and amend according to that debate. Time to do this between October 2018 and March 2019 is hugely limited, especially given the number of areas where action would be required. It is for this reason that the one Draft Agreement is the preferred means of severing us from the EU.
At UKP we will therefore be watching the news and Government web sites very carefully. If progress is made on the Draft Agreement when Parliament returns post conference season 2018, then we can decrease the likelihood of a no deal Brexit and the consequences of that. If however we continue to head towards no deal, then we will step up our planning and endeavour to ensure we can support our clients and sustain our own business.
For more detail, check out https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-governments-preparations-for-a-no-deal-scenario/uk-governments-preparations-for-a-no-deal-scenario – which details all the possible impacts that no deal would have. As an example, if you plan on driving in Europe post Brexit – no deal means you need one (possibly two) International Driving Permits (cost £5.50 each) – a minor impact sure, removing as it does our current freedom to drive across Europe on our domestic licence.
We encourage you to evaluate Brexit impacts – do call us if you want our help!