Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab delivered a speech today the preparations the UK is making for a no-deal Brexit.
He said no deal was “not what we want or what we expect, but we must be ready”, and talked through the first 25 of 84 technical notices, which have been drawn up to advise stakeholders how to minimise the effects of no deal.
All 84 notices should be published by the end of September, Raab said.
Here are some of the key points.
On negotiations with the EU
“We’re stepping up the pace and intensity of negotiations, and I’m confident a good deal is in our sights. It remains our top priority,” said Raab
He said that 80% of the withdrawal agreement had now been agreed, as well as the UK’s financial settlement.
On the Northern Irish border
The issue of how goods will pass over the Irish border has still not been resolved.
“We made progress on outstanding separation issues, and continued our focus on Northern Ireland,” said Raab. There have been fears a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland could be detrimental to the peace process, but Raab responded to a question on this by saying there were “no plans to disrupt the Belfast Agreement [also known as the Good Friday Agreement]”.
He did not specify how a soft border could be maintained - solutions such as automated checks have been previously suggested.
On the cost and staffing needed for Brexit
Raab told reporters his stress levels were "fine", but looked strained at several points during the speech
There is funding for an extra 9,000 staff to join the civil service, Raab said. The UK Border Force is set to recruit 300 extra staff.
“The Chancellor has committed another £3 billion for planning and preparations,” he said. “Laws will be on the statute book, staff will be in place, institutions will be ready for Brexit, deal or no deal.”
On post-Brexit laws
Workers’ rights that have been set by EU standards, such as holiday entitlement, flexible working and parental leave will be enshrined in UK law. “Workers will continue to be entitled to rights they have now,” Raab said, and added the UK goes further in some areas than EU legislation requires.
Long-distance lorry drivers who take goods abroad have also been covered by law. “We’ve passed legislation to ensure the UK continues to support UK truckers to work internationally,” he said, although he did not expand on what the legislation was.
To minimise disruption when importing medicines, Raab said the UK will accept EU tests on medicines.
“At the moment they only need to go through one set of checks either here or the EU. In a no deal scenario the UK won’t be a participant in the EU regulatory network, and we don’t want delays to supplies,” he said.
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“We propose accepting the testing of medicines by a member state regulator… Given that we start from a position of common rules, we would also hope the EU would recognise medicines from this country with our approval but no deal can’t guarantee it.”
He also said the UK would be “Pursuing associate membership of the European Medicines Agency”, although the likelihood is the UK would not be able to influence its policies once it is no longer in the EU.
On food shortage worries - and the BLT sandwich
There'll be no sandwich famine, says Raab
There are no plans to deploy the military to deliver food around the UK, Raab assured, despite reports that the army had been put on standby to help in the event of shortages.
He called reports on possible shortages “misinformation”.
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“In reality our food and drink supply is diverse - 30% came from the EU, 20% from the rest of world,” Raab said. “Who is credibly suggesting the EU would not want to continue to sell food to UK?”
In an unexpected attempt at humour, he rubbished notions of a “sandwich famine”.
“Contrary to the wilder claims, you will still enjoy a BLT [sandwich] after Brexit, and there are no plans to deploy the army,” he said.
On the relationship with the EU in the event of no deal
Throughout the speech, Raab continuously expressed his hope for harmonious relations with the EU even if no deal was reached.
“I find it hard to imagine our EU partners would not want to cooperate with us,” he said.
A journalist pointed out that his no deal plans sounded rather like they were contingent on some form of deal being struck, but Raab said he had more informal arrangements in mind, and that no deal may cause issues for the EU as well.
“I think in reality many of the no deal challenges will affect the EU in similar ways, and we’d continue to engage as a responsible neighbour and ally,”
In response to the journalist, who also asked about UK citizens being able to access their pensions abroad, he said: “Arrangements wouldn’t necessarily be legal arrangements… I think there’s reason to think in a no deal scenario there’d be good faith, it’s hardly in the interests of southern Spain to do harm to UK pensioners out there - cooler heads prevailing and making sure their pensions are navigated through.”
On the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in Europe
“We’ve had success in terms of the withdrawal agreement of securing the rights of UK nationals on the continent and EU nationals over here,” Raab said, although he didn’t specify what those rights would be.
On the potential advantages of no deal
There may be things to look forward to even if a deal isn’t struck, Raab suggested.
Those include: “full legislative and regulatory control including over immigration, the unfettered ability to lower tariffs, and a swifter end to our financial contributions to the EU”.
He proclaimed the government “stand ready to deliver Brexit for the British people if there is no deal”.