EU 'lagging behind UK' in no-deal planning

With new leadership in place, the UK government is pushing ahead with provisions for a no-deal Brexit, says David Sapsted

EU \'lagging behind UK\' in no-deal planning

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Neither the UK nor the EU27 is ready for no-deal Brexit, according to a contingency planning study conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the nation's largest business group.The report, which puts forward 200 recommendations to help accelerate no-deal preparations for companies and both Whitehall and Brussels, coincided with the establishment by Prime Minister Boris Johnson of a network of top-level committees to try to ensure that an effective no-deal Brexit could be achieved on October 31.

Britain pushes forward in no-deal preparation

Based on a study of existing plans proposed by the UK government, European Commission, member states and firms, the study found that while the UK’s preparations to date “are welcome, the unprecedented nature of Brexit means some aspects cannot be mitigated.”The CBI added, “The report also highlights how – contrary to many claims – the EU lags behind the UK in seeking to prevent the worst effects of a no-deal scenario. And although businesses have already spent billions on contingency planning for no deal, they remain hampered by unclear advice, timelines, cost and complexity. Larger companies, particularly those in regulated areas such as financial services, have well-thought-through contingency plans in place, though smaller firms are less well prepared.”Among the recommendations, the report said the government should update all technical notices and Brexit preparation advice by the middle of August. It also recommended that business engagement meetings with the EU resume and that additional parliamentary time be set aside to complete no-deal legislation by the end of August.

Simple and clear advice required for UK businesses

The CBI also wants to see a communications campaign with “simple and clear advice” for UK firms to be launched by the beginning of September and says that trials of Britain's crucial IT systems need to be scaled up by the middle of October. The CBI also recommended that the EU begin drafting communications and devising temporary measures in the event of a no-deal Brexit.Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, said, “Businesses are desperate to move beyond Brexit. They have huge belief in the UK and getting a deal will open many doors that have been closed by uncertainty.“There is a fresh opportunity to show a new spirit of pragmatism and flexibility. Both sides are underprepared, so it’s in all our interests. It cannot be beyond the wit of the continent’s greatest negotiators to find a way through and agree a deal. “But until this becomes a reality, all must prepare to leave without one. It’s time to review outdated technical notices; launch an ambitious communications campaign for every firm in the country and rigorously test all government plans and IT systems.”Mr Hardie added, “The EU must come to the table and commit – at the very least – to matching the UK’s sensible mitigations. Failure to do so will hurt all our economies... We can reduce but not remove the damage of no deal.“It’s not just about queues at ports; the invisible impact of severing services trade overnight would harm firms across the country. Preparing for no-deal is devilishly difficult. But it is right to prepare. The CBI will continue to support its members to get ready for no deal, as it has for been doing for over a year, but it will need all parties to raise their game.”

New government leadership prepares for Brexit

Responding to the report, a government spokesman said, “While we have done more to prepare than this report implies, since the new Prime Minister was appointed the government has stepped up the pace of planning for no-deal.“The chancellor has confirmed all necessary funding will be made available for vital no-deal preparations. This includes funding for a major nationwide communications campaign to ensure that people and businesses are ready. Crucially, while there is more to do, the CBI observes that the UK is ahead of the EU in planning for no-deal.”Over the weekend, Mr Johnson set up a Daily Operations Committee, chaired by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, to meet every weekday and oversee all of the government's preparations for leaving the EU, including a possible no-deal Brexit.There will also be an Exit Strategy Committee, chaired by Mr Johnson, which will meet twice a week and will focus on future trade arrangements and international relationships. The Daily Telegraph also reported the government would launch a £100 million advertising campaign to prepare the country for a no-deal Brexit.

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