- Boris Johnson has promised to take the UK out of the EU by the end of October “do or die.”
- However, ministers were this week handed guidance suggesting emergency plans drawn up to prepare for a no-deal Brexit in March have not been rolled over for October.
- Industry groups have told Business Insider they are concerned that time is running out to prepare.
- Failure to roll over the agreements would severely disrupt UK trade with the EU.
- The Freight Transport Association said: “There is still much to be agreed, and not much time in which to action the necessary steps to keep Britain trading efficiently.”
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Industry leaders fear trade with the European Union could be severely disrupted after it emerged that emergency plans put in place to minimise disruption under a no-deal Brexit in March, have not been rolled over for the United Kingdom’s exit in October.
Ministers were this week handed a confidential list of contingency measures which they must secure for October 31 in order to limit disruption at Britain’s borders and keep trade with the EU flowing if there is a no-deal Brexit.
The list, drawn up by the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and seen by Business Insider, was given to officials from the Department for Exiting the EU, HMRC, the Department for Transport, and the Border Delivery Group.
The document lays out contingency measures and agreements that were implemented for a possible no-deal Brexit earlier this year – but now risk expiring either before October 31, or soon after it.
Among the most urgent of these is the UK-EU agreement on road haulage. This agreement allowing British lorries basic connectivity rights to continue traveling in the EU is set to expire on December 31, just weeks after the UK could leave the EU without a deal in October. The FTA is urging ministers to extend it until at least the end of 2020.
A spokesperson for the Freight Transport Association – the UK’s leading logistics group – said “some measures which were put in place for 31 March still need the agreement of both the EU and UK governments to roll over.”
They told Business Insider: “The FTA is concerned that, in the timeframe available before 31 October, there is still much to be agreed, and not much time in which to action the necessary steps to keep Britain trading efficiently.”
In preparation for a potential no-deal in March, the UK government had also arranged a temporary waiver on consignments coming from the EU. This waiver would have eliminated the need for time-consuming Safety & Security declarations on inbound goods, and helped to reduce disruption at the border as a result.
However, the government has not extended this temporary arrangement to cover a no-deal Brexit in October.
- READ: Greg Clark says no-deal Brexit will destroy “many thousands of jobs”
- MORE: Almost half of Brits are stockpiling food, medicine and clothes as UK heads for no-deal
The logisticis industry is concerned that the government will leave it too late to act, with the new prime minister not set to be in place until the end of July. An industry figure who has been in talks with government said it had been “really dormant over the last few weeks.”
A Government spokesperson told Business Insider: “Leaving the EU with a deal remains our priority, but as a responsible Government we’ve been preparing for nearly three years to minimise disruption in the event of no deal.
“The Government has regular meetings with Freight Transport Association, where we discuss a number of their specific concerns. We’re actively working with them to help their members be ready for EU Exit.”
- TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images
Chuka Umunna, the Liberal Democrats’ Treasury spokesperson, told Business Insider: “Its clear the government is not properly prepared for a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Ministers have not put in place sufficient arrangements to enable business to cope with the impossible situation they will be put by a new Prime Minister determined to take our economy off a cliff.”
Lloyd-Russell Moyle, Labour MP and supporter of the Best For Britain anti-Brexit campaign, said: “The time and money wasted on preparing for a No Deal Brexit is staggering.
“This is yet more measures paid for by the taxpayer which were never used, and now we’re being told we have to fork out more to prepare for a new cliff-edge.
“No Deal Brexit is anything but a clean break. It’s messy and will take years to sort out. The best thing for this country now is to simply stop Brexit.”
The absence of key contingency measures will only add to growing concern that both the government and businesses will be less prepared for a no-deal Brexit in October than they were in the run-up to March 31.
Boris Johnson, the strong favourite to replace Theresa as prime minister, has promised to take the UK out of the EU by October 31 “do or die,” and claimed this week that a no-deal Brexit would be “vanishingly inexpensive.”
A report published by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week warned that the government’s no-deal Brexit preparation was “not happening quickly enough” and must be ramped up in order to be ready on time.
“In just four months’ time, on 31 October, the UK is expected to leave the EU, yet momentum appears to have slowed in Whitehall,” PAC Chair Meg Hillier – the Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch – said on Wednesday.
“Departments must urgently step up their preparations and ensure that the country is ready,” she added.
Joe Owen, a researcher at the Institute For Government think tank, told Business Insider that businesses were more sceptical about the need to prepare for a no-deal exit in October, having “seen government cry wolf twice before.”
“They’ll be seeing Boris saying the odds of no deal are a million to one against and MPs saying they want to stop no deal – that’s the stuff that will stick,” Owen said.
Business Secretary Greg Clark warned on Friday that a no-deal Brexit on Halloween would destroy “many thousands of jobs” across the country.
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