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Brexit: What are EU countries doing to prepare for no deal?

BayRadio | August 22, 2019

The UK government has stepped up its planning for leaving the EU without a deal, covering areas such as transport, healthcare, energy, food and water.

But what is the EU doing to prepare for this scenario?

European Commission

The European Commission set out its readiness for no deal in April. It covers basic arrangements for road hauliers, flights and financial services.

The commission reiterated that these arrangements would not replicate the conditions of EU membership and said that it would be “required to immediately apply its rules and tariffs at its borders” as the UK would become “a third country without any transitionary arrangements”.

The document, however, did not mention what would happen to the Irish border.

The commission has a website which links to advice from all of the EU member countries. Here are summaries of the measures taken by some of them.


The German government has a special Brexit cabinet, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. It says it is well prepared for all eventualities.

Behind the scenes, Germany is preparing for no deal which includes the recruitment of 900 extra customs staff.

In areas of social security, tax issues and financial services, new legislation has been formally agreed with the aim of creating legal certainty if there is no deal.

But the government says its biggest priority is protecting the interests of citizens on both sides of the Channel.

The German Government approved on 31 July the “Brexit Residence Transition Act” which will enter into force if there is no deal.

It would give British citizens living in Germany an initial period of nine monthsduring which their rights to live and work there would not change. However, they would have to apply for residence permits during that period.

There are no official publicly-available projections of the potential impact of a no deal Brexit on German economy.

Germany is already at a risk of recession, after recent figures showed that the economy shrank by 0.1% between April and June.


The French customs service has been preparing for Brexit for some time and is planning to recruit 700 extra staff by the end of 2020.

France is spending €50m (£43m) on expanding port infrastructure to accommodate additional officials and customs checks.

The government says the IT system which will allow lorries to cross the border easily is ready, training programmes for new staff are under way and the information campaign for all the businesses concerned is being stepped up too.

If there is no deal, new border inspection posts will be needed to check food, plants and live animals. France is planning an extra 300 staff for those checks, with 110 of them already recruited and another 75 scheduled for September.

Seven new border posts were approved by a European Commission on 11 April 2019 in preparation for the new checks.

The French government is stressing that, although it is doing everything it can to prepare, it doesn’t expect trade to be as smooth as it is now.

The French parliament passed a law in January to give the government (rather than parliament) the power to introduce new measures by emergency decree to cope with a no-deal Brexit. The law covers, among other things, the rights of UK nationals living and working in France.

Further advice for citizens and companies is available on the French government’s website.

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The Republic of Ireland has been preparing for Brexit for a long time.

It’s clear that a no-deal Brexit would raise serious questions for the Irish economy.

A study commissioned in 2018 estimated that no deal would reduce growth by 7% by 2030, compared with a scenario where the UK stayed in the EU.

In June 2019, the Irish government estimated that a no-deal Brexit could cost 55,000 Irish jobs within two years and a further 30,000 over the longer term.

Ireland passed no-deal Brexit legislation in February, which covers a number of important issues – allowing for pension and other benefits to be paid, for cross-border rail and bus services to continue and for citizens to access services across the border as they do now.

But, the most important issue – the future of the land border with Northern Ireland – does not feature in the legislation.

In the contingency plan from July 2019, the Irish government warned that no deal would mean cross-border trade with Northern Ireland could not be as frictionless as it was today and said that new checks would be “necessary to preserve Ireland’s full participation in the Single Market and Customs Union”.

But it does not elaborate on where and how such checks would take place.

The Irish government has plans to expand port infrastructure in Dublin and Rosslare, to allow inspections of trucks arriving from the UK and of live animals, and to accommodate extra staff.

  • What would no deal mean for Ireland?

The Netherlands

The Dutch have been busy. Last year the government said more than 900 customs officials and an extra 145 vets would be needed for the Port of Rotterdam.

The foreign ministry has published a no-deal Brexit impact document which says that this outcome would be “accompanied by disruptions and problems”.

It says 321 customs officials are ready to be deployed as well as an extra 14 border guards to carry out checks on UK nationals entering the country.

The main international airport, Schiphol, will have more than 100 extra customs staff. UK passport holders will face stricter checks, the airport says. Some 10.5m people fly between Schiphol and the UK every year.

British nationals and their family members who were legally resident in the Netherlands before the UK’s departure would retain their right to live, study and work in the Netherlands for 15 months, through a temporary residence permit.

The government estimated that about 45,000 British nationals and their family members currently have residence rights, with about 20,000 of them working in the Netherlands.

British students already studying in the Netherlands will be able to continue on the same terms as before, but anyone planning to study there after a no-deal Brexit will have to pay much higher tuition fees.

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Belgium is planning to recruit 368 extra customs officers to cope with the effects of Brexit. As of August 2019, 268 of them have been recruited.

The greatest impact is expected in port of Zeebrugge, as 45% of the port’s traffic is with the UK.

Belgium’s national food safety authority AFSCA will recruit 300 extra staff in the event of no deal, to check food going to and from the UK.

Belgium’s government says it will maintain current rights for UK nationals – residence and social security – until the end of 2020, and the same goes for their tax status.


Spain has announced it needs an additional 860 employees for airports and ports to carry out checks on people, goods and animals.

But, as in many other countries, the issue of citizens’ rights is the most pressing one. On 1 March, Spain’s cabinet approved temporary measures for Britons in Spain to continue living there as now, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Under the measures, which will become law if the UK leaves the EU with no deal, Britons living in Spain would have to apply for the “foreigner identity card” before 31 December 2020, to prove their legal residency status.

More than 300,000 UK nationals are officially resident in Spain – the highest number in Europe, outside the UK.

There are many pensioners among the UK nationals in Spain. The Spanish measures include healthcare provisions, stating that the current conditions will continue – provided the UK government reciprocates for Spaniards living in the UK.

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The Spanish plans would also cover Gibraltar, although certain additional provisions may apply, including Spain’s power of veto over issues relating to the British Overseas Territory in any future agreement between the UK and the EU.

An estimated 9,000 Spanish citizens work in Gibraltar, and the Madrid government says the measures would be contingent on them receiving the same rights as British citizens.

  • UK objects to description of Gibraltar as ‘British colony’ in EU law

The Government of Gibraltar’s no-deal planning has been focused on possible delays at the border with Spain, which is crossed by thousands of people every day. It has also issued a number of notices with advice to citizens on healthcare, driving, studying, financial services, mobile phone roaming and other issues.

Written by BayRadio

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