No-deal Brexit: Nearly third of 'most critical' preparations behind schedule, UK government admits

Deal or no deal: British Prime Minister Theresa May leaving Downing Street yesterday. AP photo
Deal or no deal: British Prime Minister Theresa May leaving Downing Street yesterday. AP photo

Ashley Cowburn

Nearly one-third of the “most critical” preparations for a no-deal Brexit are behind schedule, according to newly released government papers on the implications of a disorderly exit from the EU.

The documents – published on Tuesday after demands from MPs – also say that UK citizens are not preparing for a no-deal scenario as it is not viewed as a “sufficiently credible” outcome by the public.

Reporting analysis supplied to the cabinet, the documents add that leaving the bloc without a deal could leave the UK economy between 6.3 and 9 per cent smaller after 15 years than it would otherwise have been.

Critically, the government papers state: “Notwithstanding the very significant efforts to prepare for a no-deal scenario, the latest internal government-wide delivery reporting reveals the scale of risk remaining in the limited time available.

“In February, departments reported being on track for just under 85 per cent of no-deal projects but, within that, on track for just over two-thirds of the most critical projects.”

The papers claimed that the introduction of tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade in the case of a no-deal Brexit can be expected to have a “very severe” impact on some UK industries.

And around 240,000 UK companies which trade only with the EU would be caught up in the customs processes, with a total administrative burden on business from customs declarations of around £13bn a year.

In regards to the public, the papers claim: “Evidence suggests that individual citizens are also not preparing for the effects that they would feel in a no-deal scenario.

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“Government judges that the reason for this lack of action is often because a no-deal scenario is not seen as a sufficiently credible outcome to take action or outlay expenditure.”

The document stated that “the cumulative impact from a no-deal scenario is also expected to be more severe in Northern Ireland than in Great Britain, and to last for longer”.

It warned: “In a no-deal scenario there is an expectation of disruption to closely interwoven supply chains and increasing costs that would affect the viability of many businesses across Northern Ireland.

“There is a risk that businesses in Northern Ireland will not have sufficient time to prepare. This could result in business failure, and/or relocation to Ireland with knock-on consequences for the Northern Ireland economy and unemployment.”

And food prices are “likely” to increase in the wake of a no-deal exit, the papers said.

Much of the information and analysis contained in the paper, released in response to an amendment tabled by the now-Independent Group MPs Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry, was already in the public domain.

But Mr Umunna said it painted “a disastrous picture of the catastrophe which would befall our country if there is a no-deal Brexit”.

He continued: “In light of what she knows, it is utterly irresponsible for the prime minister to keep a no-deal Brexit on the table given the extreme damage it will do.

“These papers set out how food prices will rise, we may see panic buying, there will be severe disruption at the border, and jobs and livelihoods would immediately be put at risk.

“Today she told the House of Commons she is listening, but MPs have passed a motion rejecting a no-deal Brexit and yet she refuses to request an extension of the Article 50 process in order to stop no-deal happening.

Independent News Service

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