Brexit scenario without settlement on March 29 climbs on the odds list. Especially if the House of Commons does not vote or approve the exit agreement negotiated between the UK and the EU. Brussels and London have contingency plans. And the remaining 27 also prepare theirs.
Too much water can still run, much can still happen, and contingency plans serve only as a sort of deterrent. But, for yes, for no, everyone prefers to be prepared. What is it that countries, including the UK itself, and Portugal, are doing to prepare for the worst of the scenarios?
United Kingdom – Essay on chaos, ongoing debate and perhaps vote on the 15th
At 81 days of Brexit, Theresa May’s government carried out a drill in which 87 trucks drove 32 kilometers between an airfield and the port of Dover, where 17% of UK goods pass. The goal was to take 150 trucks to test the capacity of Kent’s roads, but the trial was eventually ridiculed by the opposition. “This is a taxpayer-funded farce,” said Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran. The action was also criticised by the Road Goods Merchandise Association (RHA). “Today’s drill can not replicate the reality of 4,000 retained trucks at Manston Airfield in the case of Brexit without agreement,” said RHA President Richard Burnett.
Labor has criticised the government for awarding a 15.5 million euro contract to a company with no experience or ships to do transport in the English Channel in the worst-case scenario. The company in question, Seaborne Freight, is part of a batch of three companies (the French company Brittany Ferries and the Danish DFDS) which the government has contracted for 111 million euros to provide additional freight services. “A non-agreement scenario would be terrible for our transport networks under any circumstances, but the sheer incompetence with which the preparations have been handled is alarming to the extreme,” said Labor spokesman Andy McDonald.
The Brexit deal negotiated between London and the EU on 27 was closed in November and was to be voted on 11 December in the British Parliament. Faced with internal opposition, especially within the Conservative Party itself, Prime Minister Theresa May has decided to postpone the vote. And go looking for more guarantees from Europeans on the issue of backstop. So far nothing in sight. The House of Commons returns to the debate on Brexit next Wednesday, 9, and should vote – if you vote – the agreement, in principle, on the 15th.
“Citizens first”. The one that was established as a priority by the European Commission in its December communication on the contingency plan for a Brexit without agreement will also be the central concern of the Portuguese government in the national contingency plan that it presents.
According to Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva, the Portuguese plan will be presented this month even if the current agreement on Brexit is dropped in the House of Commons or its vote is postponed again.
Asked by the DN about whether this will always be after the 14th day, the date scheduled for the vote, the minister, speaking on the sidelines of the Diplomatic Seminar, which took place on Thursday and Friday in Lisbon, replied: “Even if there is plus some delay, with March 29 already almost there, the Portuguese government will make public its plan. ”
29 March is the date for the UK to leave the EU as a result of the outcome of the referendum of 23 June 2016 and activation of Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon (a process which is still time to repeal, according to the Court of Justice of the EU).
Santos Silva underlined the existence of a campaign “from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to explain to British citizens residing in Portugal what they have to do to ensure that their rights are safeguarded.”
“If they already have permanent residence permits, they do not need to do anything, they are allowed to live in Portugal, but if they are residing and have not yet registered, they must do so.” The minister also left the guarantee that everything has been done, from the first hour, after the referendum, to give support to the approximately 400,000 Portuguese living in the United Kingdom. And ensure that your rights will be safeguarded after Brexit.
Following a draft resolution presented by the PSD, the Portuguese Parliament will discuss the issue of the contingency plan on the 17th, confirmed to DN the deputy chairman of the parliamentary bench of the party Rubina Berardo. On that day Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator for Brexit, will be in Portugal. It will go to the Council of State, chaired by Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
Although the detailed content of said plan is not known, documents prepared in the meantime provide clues. A CIP report, submitted in October, predicts a 26% drop in Portuguese exports to the UK on a Brexit without agreement and listed as the most sensitive sectors of computer, electronic and optical products, electrical equipment, motor vehicles and semi-trailers . The most sensitive regions of the country in the productive sector are Alto Minho, Cávado, Tâmega and Sousa and Ave. And in the services sector (mainly tourism), the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon, Algarve and Madeira. Fourth destination of Portuguese exports, says the 120-page report, the United Kingdom is in the fourth place of the countries of direct investment in Portugal and is the third main country of origin of the remittances of the emigrants.
As part of the initiatives, AICEP has held seminars covering sectors such as food, automotive, health, banking and tourism (the latter planned for this year). According to Bloomberg, Portugal, where a six-month strike by dockers was now announced, it had not planned to increase customs personnel whatever Brexit, both in the port of Lisbon and Sines. In terms of opportunities, Sines could receive US liquefied natural gas to the EU.
The government has already created Portugal In, designed to attract businesses affected by Brexit (although there are strong competitors such as France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.
Ireland – Avoid at all costs the return of a physical frontier
The Republic of Ireland is perhaps the longest-awaiting country for Brexit. The big issue is to avoid at all costs the return of a physical border between the two Irish: the Republic of Ireland (independent state and EU member) and Northern Ireland (autonomous province part of the United Kingdom). Hence the point concerning the backstop, a safeguard mechanism to avoid this frontier contained in the final agreement of Brexit, is the one that causes more controversy.
The Irish Finance Minister has already announced a € 300m fund to help sectors of the economy and companies most affected by Brexit. In addition, Dublin plans to hire more than 1,000 customs agents, build more port infrastructure and transfer stocks of 200,000 tonnes of UK oil to other EU states.
Spain – Two problems: one is called Iberia, another Gibraltar.
The government of the PSOE, weakened by lack of parliamentary majority and having difficulties in approving the Budget, intends to present this month the Spanish contingency plan for a scenario of Brexit without agreement and to approve it in February, by means of a decree, confirmed the own Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Spain, like Portugal, gives priority to the situation of the citizens, since there are 116 thousand Spaniards in the United Kingdom and Spain has the largest community of British of the EU (300 thousand).
In terms of aviation, Madrid has a problem called Iberia, a company integrated in the British group IAG, which with Brexit would be extra-community. And Spain wants to shield the tourism sector from any disturbances. Trade worries more than the financial sector, given the preparations made in the latter field by the European Commission and the banks themselves. Customs controls will increase if the United Kingdom (fourth destination of Spanish exports) is no longer from the EU. Gibraltar, a thorny issue, will be dealt with on the basis of the Spain-United Kingdom bilateral agreements in case of departure without agreement.
France – Approved law allowing the government emergency measures
On 10 December, the French parliament passed a law giving the government the power to introduce emergency measures by decree to mitigate the consequences of a UK exit from the EU that is not governed by any agreement. That same evening, Theresa May postponed the vote on the current Brexit agreement, for lack of support, which is now scheduled for the 14th. The case is not a joke: exports to the UK are 3% of France’s GDP. If Brexit is unconstrained, air traffic may be paralysed, the Eurostar train may not have its French licenses recognised by the British … French customs services have announced the hiring of 700 more employees by 2020. According to its official website, 120 recruitment for this purpose took place in 2018.
Germany – Warnings and cautions, but waiting to see what Frankfurt wins
Germany has maintained a low profile in the discussion or public disclosure of its preparations to deal with a deregulated or disorderly Brexit. German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has repeatedly warned companies and banks not to underestimate the risks associated with leaving the EU and preparing for D-Day.
As Germany is the largest economy in the EU and the UK’s largest trading partner, Berlin is also betting on the additional hiring of civil servants, cautioning any less economically open future relations with the British. However, Germany can also win with Brexit if banks and companies replace London with Frankfurt as the financial capital of Europe. According to calculations by the lobby group Frankfurt Main Finance, quoted by CNBC, City could lose up to 800 billion euros to Manhattan.
With the government in office, after Prime Minister Charles Michel has resigned amid a controversy over the UN Global Pact on Migration, Belgium is in a situation that, although not unprecedented, leaves it somewhat fragile to receive the shock waves from Brexit. Be it with agreement, without order, messy or otherwise … Nesting the second largest port in the EU, Antwerp, Belgium is investing in drones and underwater scanners to monitor the coast and the North Sea, the agency reported Bloomberg.
There will be more dogs trained to detect drugs and money, while the number of customs officials, currently set at 3400, will be increased by 141 new agents by April. The total number of additional recruits will depend on Brexit’s outcome, Florence Angelici, a spokeswoman for the Belgian Finance Ministry, said in response to questions from Bloomberg.
Netherlands – Strengthening of staff not to stop the EU’s largest port
The Netherlands has the largest port in Europe in Rotterdam and so, taking into account the impact of Brexit, customs services have increased its staff from five thousand to six thousand employees. The Dutch Food Safety Authority will also strengthen the staff. The Netherlands is the UK’s second trading partner but is not focused on what it loses. But also what you can win.
The European Medicines Agency, which will leave London, will move to Amsterdam (Porto has also applied but lost). The Dutch government, the BBC reports, wants to guard against any shortages of medicines and medical equipment. The Royal Bank of Scotland is preparing to transfer one-third of its investment banking customers and millions of assets from the UK to Ireland.