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Brexit: EU says it has completed its no-deal preparations

The Independent logo The Independent 25/03/2019 Jon Stone
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Brussels says it has completed its preparations for a no-deal Brexit and warned that it is “increasingly likely” that the UK will crash out.

In a statement released on Monday the European Commission said “preparedness and contingency work”, which it has been conducting since December 2017, was now finished.

The announcement comes days after EU leaders agreed to a request by Theresa May to extend the UK’s Brexit date – though not by as long as she had asked for.

Article 50 has now been extended until April 12, meaning the UK will crash out without a deal if it does not pass the withdrawal agreement by then, secure a further extension, or unilaterally cancel the Brexit process.

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© Getty If MPs approve the withdrawal agreement this week the EU has also granted an additional extension to May 22 – just before the European Parliament elections. A further, long extension could also be provided until at least the end of the year – but only if the UK signals that it wants to participate in the elections and does so before April 12.

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The European Commission says it has published 90 preparedness notices, three Commission Communications, and has made 19 legislative proposals in order to deal with the possible consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

Brussels has also been liaising with EU member states, who are responsible for much preparatory work. The Commission said on Monday visits to the 27 countries had shown a ”high degree of preparation by member states for all scenarios”.

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In a statement, a spokesperson for the Commission said: “While the European Union continues to hope that it will not be the case, this means that if the Withdrawal Agreement is not ratified by Friday 29 March, a ‘no-deal’ scenario may occur on 12 April.

“The EU has prepared for this scenario and has remained united throughout its preparations. It is now important that everyone is ready for and aware of the practical consequences a ‘no-deal’ scenario brings.”

The EU's no-deal measures include temporary fixes for problems that would otherwise arise with with financial services, flights, freight, fisheries access, and the Erasmus programme.

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It has also said it will provide continued funding of the PEACE programme in Northern Ireland, and set up a framework through which the UK could agree to continue to the EU budget.

The Commission will also safeguard visa free travel between the UK and EU, though officials say British travellers will no longer be able to use EU passport control lanes and will need to get their passports stamped.

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There are also measures in place safeguard the payment of pensions to most UK and EU nationals living abroad.

The EU says many of the fixes are temporary and that they cannot represent a long-term relationship between the UK and the bloc.

The effect of a no-deal Brexit is expected to be significantly more intense on the UK than on the EU. The UK’s no-deal Brexit planning is called Operation Yellowhammer and covers 12 areas including energy, transport, healthcare, and food. The Ministry of Defence has also put 3,500 troops on standby.

Effects of a no-deal on the UK are expected to include major disruption at ports and airports, rising prices, economic recession, and possible shortages of some foods and medicines.

Polls suggest the public would prefer to remain than leave without a deal, but some Brexiteers have said they still want to leave anyway despite the predictions that it would harm the country.

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