Brexit: The Consequences of a Probable No-Deal Brexit on Life in Britain

The Brexit transition period ends on 31 December and if the UK and the EU do not strike a deal on trade and other issues, the country will face a mounting pile of problems which will influence some aspects of British life in unpleasant ways.

Brexit, the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU) after almost five decades, is the outcome of a marginal vote reached in the 2016 referendum in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It has been a controversial issue among UK political parties and figures over the last four years. During this time, negotiations between the UK and the EU continued with the hope of reaching a Brexit deal. At the end of January 2020, Britain formally exited the EU and an eleven-month transition period for talks on post-Brexit deals started. The transition period ends on 31 December 2020, but there is no deal agreed between the two sides yet and officials from both sides are now warning about a no-deal Brexit.

A no-deal Brexit will affect the many financial and non-financial aspects of relations for both sides. There are only a few days left for the negotiators to discuss trade and other outstanding issues to reach an agreement for long-term relations. Negotiations on terms and conditions for future relations remain outstanding and discussions on other issues have not progressed at all. Without a deal, tariffs will be imposed on the import-export of goods and the UK domestic companies will be hit in many ways. Food providers have warned that there will be a shortage of vegetables for three months and emergency organisers expect that a no-deal Brexit will cause a rush among people for parches which is dangerous during a COVID-19 pandemic. Ministers warned that if London and Brussels do not reach a deal by 31 December 2020, supermarkets should store food and goods for the months ahead.

A no-deal Brexit means higher tariffs on products, placing more pressure on UK consumers and those in Europe. For instance, a member of the Board of Management at BMW warned that tariffs resulting from a no-deal Brexit will cost the carmaker and its customers in the UK and Europe hundreds of millions of euros. No deal and no extension of the transition period will force London and Brussels to trade on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms, which means the UK will not have free access to the single market in the EU and there will be restrictions placed on the path of trade. Other fields of cooperation between the two sides will also be affected overnight, such as travel, services, fishing, and banking.
Although the UK formally left the EU on 31 January 2020, it has been in a transition period to decide on trade and security issues. If the two sides reach an agreement, there will be vast cooperation in the future, including in security and information. This means that London and Brussels will share information databases and carry out police and judicial cooperation. Some national security advisers believe that people in the UK will be less safe if a no-deal Brexit happens. They believe that a lack of access to the European database is something which cannot be replaced easily. They believe that the British police will face capability gaps at the start of 2021 unless London and Brussels strike a deal. The UK also wants to have access to the Schengen Information System (SIS) for security. While security is not an important point in the negotiations, the EU has refused to accept a separate security deal if there is no trade deal between London and Brussels.

Despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s insistence that a no-deal Brexit will not be a bad outcome, a recent poll shows that a good number of British people – around 64% – believe that leaving the EU without a deal after the transition period will end badly. While negotiators are rushing to reach a free trade agreement by 1 January 2021, around two-thirds of the British people believe a no-deal Brexit will be bad for them. Among the opponents of a no-deal Brexit, 26% said that the impact on trade will be very bad and 38% said it will be fairly bad for the country. People strongly opposed to a no-deal Brexit are not limited to certain areas, but are spread across the country.

If the UK leaves without a deal, it will be taking risks related to the direct impact of the divorce in some areas. Some 30% of fresh fruits and vegetables come from the EU, so leaving the block without a deal means less, and more expensive, fruits and vegetables. Also, due to a fall in the value of the pound against the euro, electricity and gas prices can go up. Another area affected by a no-deal Brexit is travel. A good number of people from the UK travel to the EU, but by leaving the EU British citizens will have difficulty travelling to these countries. During the pandemic in particular, the UK has been the third European country with the highest number of Covid-19 cases, so many EU countries may deny entry to UK citizens.UK nationals living in EU countries may also experience further difficulties. Britons live mostly in Spain, France and Germany. If an agreement is not reached, they will lose their EU citizenship along with certain rights and access to services. This means that UK citizens studying in the EU, and EU students studying in the UK, will encounter problems travelling and receiving social services like health and medical care. Another important issue is the distribution of fishing quotas. UK fisheries want increased quotas after the divorce. Presently, this is regulated by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). EU member states share one common fishing area while international regulations measure 200 nautical miles (nm) beyond domestic waters for each country. The UK wants to keep its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEC) and decide which states can fish in its waters, but it also wants permission to fish in EU waters.

The Conservative government organised a nationwide referendum in 2016 to leave or remain in the EU after more than four decades. UK’s officials claim that they want more control over their borders and immigration, but the long-term integration between the UK and other European states makes it hard to fully separate the two sides. In order to benefit from their financial and non-financial relations, UK and EU negotiators have been involved in talks over the past few years with the hope of a Brexit deal. Few days remain before the deadline and it is likely that the two sides will not reach a deal. In this case, the people in the UK may face changes in the short and long term which will affect their daily lives.

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