The UK is scheduled to leave the European Union (EU) at 11pm on Friday 29 March 2019. In the meantime, negotiations continue to take place between the EU and Britain in order to reach an agreement over issues affecting businesses and individuals.
Britain joined the European Economic Community (as it was known then) on 1 January 1973. After 46 years of membership, the number of laws and regulations that will need to be unravelled is extensive.
Three key issues
There are three key ‘divorce’ issues that need to be resolved:
As yet, there is very little in the way of confirmed plans, and a lot of speculation. The reported figure indicates that the UK owes the EU up to £40 billion. Meanwhile, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is around 310 miles long, making the practicality of border checks questionable. On both of these issues, the UK has been negotiating for better terms.
Regarding the final question, so far it has been suggested that EU citizens living in the UK will not be forced to leave. Those who have been living in the UK for over five years will be able to apply for ‘settled status’. However, this is only true if a favourable deal is reached. In a ‘no deal’ scenario, anything could potentially happen.
Another area of concern is whether the freedom of movement of UK citizens will end after Brexit. The UK is keen to create a similar agreement for movement between the UK and the EU, with potential visa-free travel for both tourists and businesses.
‘No deal’ preparations
In the event of a ‘no deal’, Brexit will still take place, and the UK needs to ensure it is prepared.
According to the government, there are ‘84 areas of British life’ that need to be taken into consideration, covering a wide range of issues, from aviation security to driver licensing, UK trade tariffs, VAT and workplace rights. As of yet, the government has not come to any conclusive arrangements with the EU. It has, however, prepared technical notices incorporating World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, in the event of a no deal scenario.
The first two batches in the series of ‘no deal’ Brexit technical notices have already been issued. These aim to help businesses and individuals to prepare if the government fails to reach a deal with the EU. On releasing the first batch of publications, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab was keen to stress that reaching a Brexit deal ‘remains the overriding priority’.
What happens next?
Once Britain exits the EU, a transition period from 29 March 2019 to 31 December 2020 will ensue, assuming a deal has been agreed. Free movement will continue during this period, and even though the UK can strike its own trade deals with other countries, they won’t come into force until 1 January 2021.
Here are some important dates in the Brexit timetable:
13 December 2018: This is seen as the last practical date when both the EU and the UK can sign off on a Brexit deal.
Between December 2018 and March 2019: The House of Commons and the House of Lords will vote on the withdrawal treaty, although if MPs do reject the deal, it's not entirely clear what will happen next.
Before ‘Brexit Day’: UK Parliament will need to pass an implementation bill.
29 March 2019 - Brexit Day: Britain is set to exit the EU at 11pm UK time – deal or no deal.
31 December 2020: The transition period will end at midnight.
The government’s guidance on how to prepare for Brexit in the event of a no deal scenario can be found here, and will be updated as more technical notices are issued.