EU prepares for hard Brexit, saying it is more ‘likely’ UK will crash out

Brussels said that it is “increasingly likely” that the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal, as it insisted the bloc was ready for a hard Brexit that would require everything from customs checks to quizzing British travellers at the border.

With a no-deal Brexit possible as soon as April 12, the European Commission said that country visits by senior officials showed “a high degree of preparation by member states for all scenarios”.

EU officials said that the bloc is now as ready as possible for a situation that Brussels acknowledges would inevitably disrupt trade and free movement.

There will be “frictions”, one official said. “It is pretty clear.”

As Theresa May struggles to convince MPs to swing behind her draft withdrawal agreement, Brussels published leaflets setting out the reality that UK and EU citizens would immediately face in a no-deal scenario.

The documents warn Britons that they would no longer be protected by the EU’s ban on mobile phone roaming charges and that travellers to the continent will face questions at the border about the purpose of their visit and means of subsistence.

Other immediate changes would include animals no longer being covered by the bloc’s “pet passport”, means checks at the border on whether they have the necessary jabs and ID chips.

EU officials said that European companies were telling Brussels that they would prefer a no-deal outcome soon to prolonged uncertainty about whether there will be a managed exit.

“They were telling us ‘we want certainty, and if it has to happen so be it’,” one official said.

A no-deal Brexit would involve the immediate imposition of customs duties on UK goods entering the EU, as well as product checks.

Asked about the implications for the Northern Ireland land border, an EU official said that Brussels was working intensively with the Irish government to minimise “disruptions to cross-border trade and supply chains” in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“We are working very closely with the Irish authorities to try to carry out controls away from the border if at all possible,” the official said.

“But this is still a situation that is absolutely fundamentally different to a withdrawal agreement situation — there will be disruptions, we are working to find good solutions.”


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