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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

UK steps up no-deal Brexit preparations

Minister in charge of the process of leaving Europe says country could withhold payment to EU in event of no-deal Brexit

Brexit secretary Dominic Raab confirmed Britain would withhold any financial settlement in the event of a 'no deal' scenario. AFP
Brexit secretary Dominic Raab confirmed Britain would withhold any financial settlement in the event of a 'no deal' scenario. AFP

The UK will detail plans for vehicle standards, mobile-phone roaming charges and environmental rules after Brexit in a batch of documents on Thursday outlining the country’s preparations for leaving the European Union without a deal.

Prime Minister Theresa May is treading a tightrope as Brexit negotiations enter the final phase. She wants to demonstrate to both the country and her EU counterparts that Britain is prepared in the event the talks break down, but she also needs to underline that “no deal” isn’t a desirable option.

“Getting a deal with the European Union is still by far and away the most likely outcome, and I will continue to champion” our proposals, Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement. “These technical notices are part and parcel of our sensible, pragmatic approach to preparing for all outcomes.”

Pro-Brexit detractors within Mrs May’s Conservative Party oppose her current so-called "Chequers plan" for Brexit, and would be prepared to embrace a no-deal pathway. On Monday, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who heads the 60-strong European Research Group of Tory Brexiteer MPs and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who quit the cabinet over the Chequers plan, set out the case for a no-deal Brexit, which they said would make the UK richer.

“Chequers is a dying duck in a thunderstorm, if not a dead duck,” Mr Rees-Mogg said on Wednesday in an interview with Channel 4 News. It has “as far as one can tell, no support outside the cabinet”.

Mrs May needs to pass her eventual deal – including a solution for how to keep a frictionless border with Ireland – through Parliament, where she depends on the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. That means any objections within her own party threaten to scupper her plans.

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The technical notices will be released in the afternoon, following a three-hour cabinet meeting in the morning to review the government’s preparations for a no-deal scenario, the Department for Exiting the European Union said in a statement.

The cabinet will also discuss the work its sub-committees on civil contingencies have been examining. That includes international flights and cross-channel trade, as well as a consideration of possible triggers for civil unrest following a no-deal Brexit.

While a no-deal outcome comes with “risks” and “short-term disruption”, Britons should ignore scaremongering about the scenario, Mr Raab wrote in The Daily Telegraph on Thursday. He also warned the EU that failure to reach a deal would mean Britain wouldn’t pay an agreed exit bill of £39 billion (Dh186.86bn). “There’s no deal without the whole deal,” Mr Raab wrote.

He said 28 papers will be released, adding to 25 published last month. The Brexit department said issues covered will include upholding environmental standards, plans for vehicle standards and mobile-phone roaming charges. Business lobby groups have been invited to view them in a reading room between 1pm and 3pm, and indicate they expect papers on topics including aviation, space, climate change and structural funds, with contentious issues such as energy and services held back for a third batch of papers later in the month.

Sky News said Britons will face a return to phone roaming and data charges when they travel in the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit, though the government will stress it has the power to pass new laws limiting those charges. Sky also reported that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has written to his 27 EU counterparts urging them to negotiate bilateral deals “as soon as possible” to ensure seamless air and road transport with Britain in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Thursday’s is the second set of no-deal papers published by the government, after a batch published last month. Those documents detailed how Britain faces a shortage of sperm if there’s no deal, as well as higher credit card charges, slower service and more regulation. The government also asked pharmaceutical companies to stockpile drugs, while Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said a no-deal Brexit would have “large fiscal consequences”.

The UK and EU are said to plan a special summit to sign the Brexit deal in November, following an informal gathering of leaders in Salzburg, Austria, next Wednesday, and an official summit starting on October 18.

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