While the Government believes that leaving the EU with a deal is the best outcome, leaving without a deal remains the legal default at the end of the extension period on 31 October 2019. As a responsible government, we have been preparing to minimise any disruption in the event of a No Deal scenario for over two years and are continuing with these preparations. This statement is intended to provide the House with an update on these preparations.
We have published approximately 750 pieces of communications on No Deal since August 2018, including 106 technical notices explaining to businesses and citizens what they need to do to prepare. Our advice covers a wide range of information, from maintaining funding for EU-funded programmes to driving in the EU after Exit. To provide further advice, we have also contacted businesses directly, for example c.145,000 businesses who trade with the EU to help them get ready for No Deal customs procedures.
Since an extension to Article 50 was agreed between the UK and the EU, the Government has continued to prepare for No Deal. We continue to lay statutory instruments to ensure a functioning statute book by Exit Day. Since 12 April the Government has laid SIs to address deficiencies in retained EU law in areas such as the environment, aviation safety, emissions trading and Euratom. The Government will continue to bring forward further statutory instruments to ensure we are fully prepared for Exit.
We have signed a number of trade continuity agreements, including with Switzerland, a key trading partner. In addition to these signed agreements, the UK has also reached an agreement in principle with South Korea on the terms of a continuity trade agreement, through which businesses will be able to continue to benefit from existing trade arrangements. Once that agreement is signed, the UK will have signed agreements with countries that account for 63% of the UK’s current trade with those countries for which the UK is seeking continuity.
Guaranteeing the supply of critical ‘category 1’ goods, including medicines, medical products, veterinary medicines and chemicals remains an essential element of the Government’s No Deal contingency planning. The Government is therefore undertaking steps to secure freight capacity for suppliers of these goods in a No Deal scenario.
The Department of Health and Social Care is starting the process of setting up an express freight contingency arrangement to support continuity of supply of medicines and medical products. This will be an urgent contingency measure for products requiring urgent delivery, within a 24-48 hour timeframe, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. This express freight contingency arrangement forms part of the Department’s multi-layered approach, which includes rerouting medical supplies from the short strait crossings, extra warehouse space, stockpiling, buffer stocks, clarifying regulatory requirements, supporting traders to have all necessary paperwork in place at the border, and strengthening the processes used to deal with shortages to ensure that patients have uninterrupted access to medicines and medical products if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Government will only pay for capacity as and when it is needed and used. This will be designed to cover all of the UK. The Department will be writing to industry to set out further details of these preparations.
The Department for Transport is putting in place a freight capacity framework agreement that will provide government departments with the ability to secure freight capacity for our critical supply chains as and when required. This framework does not commit the Government to purchasing or reserving any freight capacity, but it does provide a flexible list of operators and options for the provision of the capacity that can be drawn upon if needed.
In the coming months, the Government will make further announcements on its preparations for a possible No Deal Exit on 31 October, including on trade continuity agreements to limit disruption to our trade with third countries after we leave the EU.
Many of the most important mitigations require businesses and citizens to act. There have been hundreds of meetings at ministerial and official level to discuss preparedness with businesses and civil society groups. The Government will continue to engage with stakeholders across the UK to ensure they are ready for all scenarios. We have published extensive advice on the steps that businesses and citizens may need to take to prepare for our exit from the EU, which is available on www.gov.uk/euexit.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords