There are less than 100 days to go before the U.K. leaves the European Union and the British government still does not have a clear idea of how it will do so.
In November, Prime Minister Theresa May presented the full draft of her Brexit deal, which immediately proved wildly unpopular with both Remainers (who want a new vote and no Brexit at all) and hardline Brexiteers (who thought the deal gave the EU too much).
May then tried to get the deal through Parliament, but called off the vote on it when it became clear she would lose, badly. In fact, the deal proved so unpopular that last week a group of Conservative (Tory) Members of Parliament (MP) called a vote of no-confidence against May — which she won, enabling her to stay on as prime minister.
So to summarize, a month after the draft deal was introduced there have been three political crises in the Houses of Parliament and May is no closer to getting her deal voted through. To make matters worse the EU has categorically stated that it will not renegotiate the deal, while MPs have dug their heels in as well.
All of this raises the increased possibility of a “No Deal” scenario, in which the UK abruptly withdraws from the EU without any deal agreed. This would mean that border checks would have to be re-imposed, the UK would lose its access to the EU single market and EU citizens in the UK (and vice-versa) would be left in legal limbo.
These consequences, which already sound bad, become a lot worse when you look at what it would mean on-the-ground.
Time-sensitive supply chains, including for food and medicine, could be severely disrupted by massive backlogs in ports since goods would no longer be transferred seamlessly from the EU into the UK. The UK would also no longer be governed by EU aviation standards, which could effectively ground flights until they renegotiated.
But that’s not even the worst of it according to government documents seen by the Times of London. The documents state that in the event of a no deal, unemployment and welfare spending would likely rise to levels not seen since the 2008-09 financial crash.
In the worse case scenario, the government would need to “explore how we would deal with a rise in homelessness and other potential societal impacts like a rise in suicide rates or an increase in food banks use.”
Westminster is ramping up contingency plans for the event of a No Deal. On Wednesday it put 3,500 troops on standby to “support any government department on any contingencies they may need.” The government also plans to send 80,000 advice packets to businesses on Friday about how best to prepare for a no deal. This, naturally, is leading to serious uncertainty in the business community.
“Businesses of all sizes are reaching the point of no return, with many now putting in place contingency plans that are a significant drain of time and money,” five leading business groups including the British Chambers of Commerce said in a statement. “While many companies are actively preparing for a ‘no-deal’ scenario, there are also hundreds of thousands who have yet to start -– and cannot be expected to be ready in such a short space of time.”