In what is either a sign of what’s to come, or a great double bluff from Brussels, the European Commission has announced they have begun implementing their preparations for a No Deal Brexit. Just like the UK is setting aside £2 billion to fund government departments, the Commission is aiming to reduce disruption as much as possible in finance and transport sectors.
In a statement, the Commission explained:
Given the continued uncertainty in the UK surrounding the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, as agreed between the EU and the UK on 25 November 2018 – and last week's call by the European Council (Article 50) to intensify preparedness work at all levels and for all outcomes – the European Commission has today started implementing its “no deal” Contingency Action Plan. This delivers on the Commission's commitment to adopt all necessary “no deal” proposals by the end of the year, as outlined in its second preparedness Communication of 13 November 2018.
Today's package includes 14 measures in a limited number of areas where a "no-deal" scenario would create major disruption for citizens and businesses in the EU27. These areas include financial services, air transport, customs, and climate policy, amongst others.
The Commission considers it essential and urgent to adopt these measures today to ensure that the necessary contingency measures can enter into application on 30 March 2019 in order to limit the most significant damage caused by a "no-deal" scenario in these areas.
They need to do this, of course. If the UK is stepping up preparations then it’s wise for the European Union to do the same – but I feel like they’d much rather renegotiate than really implement these measures. It’ll cost them money they don’t want to spend. So could this really just be one big double bluff? I mean, if I’ve figured out that Mrs. May is bluffing to re-open negotiations, then they surely have too.
Regardless, though, the Commission is putting in place 14 measures to ensure the most seamless transition possible, focusing on transport, finance, climate policy, animals and plants, data protection, and customs matters. Their measures will mean that freight carried by road into the European Union could continue for nine months without permits, and UK financial services regulations will be considered equivalent to EU regulations to up to two years.
It will also continue to allow British airlines to operate flights in and out of the EU, but not WITHIN the EU. Not ideal, but certainly something that could be negotiated further down the line. We know this is really just a matter of the EU throwing their toys out of their pram. Once they’ve had a stern talking to, I’m sure they’ll straighten up and fly right.
The European Commission urged the remaining member states to also take a “generous” approach to protecting the rights of UK citizens who live in their countries. Theresa May certainly won’t be repatriating anyone, so I’d be surprised if any EU nation decided to start shipping ex-pats back to Britain.
Interestingly, though, the statement explains how these new arrangements will be time-limited, and that they’ll be able to end this period without consulting the UK. That’s considerably different to what they’ve offered in our Withdrawal Agreement, whereby the UK can only leave backstop conditions if agreed by both sides.
Funny how they can be inconsistent like that.