Britain to Tell Businesses to Urgently Prepare for No-Deal Brexit as ‘Time Is Running Out’

October 19, 2020 Updated: October 19, 2020

Britain has announced its “Time is running out” campaign to tell businesses to urgently prepare for a no-deal Brexit when the country leaves the EU’s single market and customs union in 75 days.

This week Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Minister of the Cabinet Office Michael Gove will warn business leaders “not to get caught out” by new trading regulations, the government said in a media release on Sunday

The tax and customs authority, HMRC, is also writing to 200,000 businesses that trade with the EU, setting out the new customs and tax rules they will be governed by and advising on how to deal with them, the government said.

“It is on all of us to put in the work now so that we can embrace the new opportunities available to an independent trading nation with control of its own borders, territorial waters and laws,” Gove said.

Michel Barnier
European Union chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, at a two-day face-to-face EU summit in Brussels on Oct. 15, 2020. (Olivier Hoslet/Pool via Reuters)

The government’s plan to press businesses to prepare for new rules comes following negotiations breaking down on Thursday when the EU demanded Britain give ground.

Over 70 British business groups representing over 7 million workers on Sunday urged politicians to get back to the negotiating table and strike a deal.

“With compromise and tenacity, a deal can be done. Businesses call on leaders on both sides to find a route through,” the groups said in a joint statement.

But despite Britain now saying the door is still open if the EU wants to make some small concessions to save Brexit trade talks, issues still unresolved include fair competition rules, dispute resolution, and fisheries.

European leaders have asked EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier to continue talks.

He had been due in London for talks with British counterpart David Frost, but they will now speak by telephone on Monday to discuss the structure of future talks, Barnier’s spokesman said.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic repeated on Monday that the EU still wanted a trade deal but not “at any cost” after Johnson said on Friday there was no point in continuing talks.

“It has to be a fair agreement for both sides—we are not going to sign an agreement at any cost,” Sefcovic told reporters after meeting Gove in London regarding the implementation of the 2020 divorce deal.

A Deal, ‘But Not at Any Price’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said compromises on both sides would be needed, while French President Emmanuel Macron said Britain needed a Brexit deal more than the 27-nation EU.

“We are ready for a deal, but not at any price,” he said.

On Oct. 12, the government sent an initial urgent message to businesses telling them to prepare for the end of the Brexit transition period whether a trade deal with the European Union is reached or not.

According to government guidance, to get ready for new arrangements from Jan. 1, businesses need to do things such as ensure any staff from EU countries register for residency rights, and prepare for customs procedures when trading with the EU.

The government is providing a package of support to help businesses prepare for Britain’s “new start” after the transition, including an online tool to assess which actions a business needs to take and a series of free live webinars.

After Dec. 31, British citizens will also need to observe new rules for travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, with additional rules for business travel.

In the transition period since leaving the EU, European rules have continued to be applicable for Britain and will continue to be so until Dec. 31. If no trade deal with the EU is reached by then, Britain would by default need to trade under what Johnson has dubbed “Australia-style” World Trade Organisation rules.

Reuters contributed to this report.