What will happen if there is a no-deal Brexit?

The EU will take steps to make no deal easier for itself. It will still come with a hefty cost for the United Kingdom.


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How likely is a no-deal Brexit? The cabinet has agreed to expedite its plans for a non-negotiated exit from the European Union, but the reality of the plans themselves is that they are much ado about nothing.

They consist of spending commitments that won’t kick in until after we have left, and letters to businesses who have just 71 working days to action them if we haven’t. The National Health Service is already spending money in the here and now to ameliorate medicine shortages. The only significant change is that 3,500 members of the armed forces will be on hand to help manage crises.

However, most of the practical measures that are required to prevent the worst consequences of no deal require a deal of some form of description at a European level. The European Union has announced a series of measures it will take to avert the worst of no deal. But crucially, those measures are designed to avert the worst from the perspective of the remaining members of the European Union.

That means that the EU plans to allow planes to fly between the United Kingdom and the EU and through European airspace, and to ensure that financial services will operate: that is to say, the EU will make sure that no deal doesn’t mean that British and European tourists are stuck in airport lounges indefinitely and will want to prevent a crisis in the financial sector that could spread to the rest of Europe. But the consequences of no deal that will cause the most upheaval in the United Kingdom – that is to say, long queues at customs and shortages of food and medicine – won’t be ameliorated by the European Union. 

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.