No deal, according to Theresa May at one point in the far distant past, was better than a bad deal on Brexit. Now a report from the influential academic group UK in a Changing Europe has examined what no deal might actually look like.
The writers of the report denied they wished to suggest leaving the EU with no deal would be catastrophic, but instead “set about the task with an open mind”. Here is what they found a no deal Brexit would mean:
1. It will go against public wisdom
Just after the election, Survation reported that as many as two-thirds of Brits believed that leaving the EU without “a mutually agreed deal” would be bad for Britain, while just 26 per cent reckoned it would be good for the country. Other polls show similar scepticism about leaving with no deal.
2. There will be legal chaos
Article 50 states the treaties will cease to apply at the end of the two year negotiating period. According to the report: “This will lead to legal chaos.”
For example, while treaties are still in place, UK exporters pay no tariffs when transporting goods to Europe. After B-Day, there will be a duty to be paid. But who pays it? And if the buyer and seller enter a dispute, what court resolves it?
3. Trading with the EU would default to WTO rules
World Trade Organisation rules would apply. British exporters to the EU would be subject to the same customs checks, tariffs and regulatory barriers that are currently in place with the US. In practical terms, this means lorry queues at border points like Dover and Calais.
4. A border would reappear on the island of Ireland
Because of these customs checks and tariffs, the report expects a return to a hard border in Northern Ireland in the absence of a Brexit deal. This would disrupt farming in particular.
5. Food prices will rise
While a plummeting pound may affect prices in the short term (as it’s already doing), the report expects food to get pricier in the longer term because of the extra tariffs. Where the UK relies on buying from abroad, like fruits and vegetables, pork and beef, “prices may rise significantly”.
6. It’s fishing galore
If no deal is reached, boats from other EU member state will lose their automatic legal right to go fish in UK waters. So British fishermen could catch more fish. But here’s the catch. When it came to selling that fish, they would face tariffs on sales to their largest export market – the EU.
7. The only destination is Dublin
The report expects that if no deal was struck, the right to operate services from one airport to another would vanish and the only reliable airline routes would be from the UK to the airline’s home country. In other words, you could fly Ryanair to Dublin, but not to Barcelona, Milan or Paris.
8. We’re going un-nuclear
Without being a member of Euratom, the body that oversees nuclear energy, the UK will lose access to safety procedures and systems for operating nuclear power plants. The plants would have to shut, and the UK would have to find new sources of energy soon, or it’s lights out.
9. EU’re in limbo
Without any agreement, EU citizens in the UK would be in a form of legal and political limbo – not illegal, but with their status at best anomalous. Those without documentation would struggle the most. Meanwhile, UK nationals elsewhere in the EU would find themselves at the mercy of individual nation states.