With Britain teetering closer to leaving the EU without a deal after May’s crushing Commons defeat on Tuesday, businesses and governments across the European Union have ramped up their plans for a no-deal Brexit.
An unprecedented and historic defeat for May’s withdrawal agreement in Westminster has now inevitably increased the possibility of the UK crashing out of the bloc.
In Ireland, for instance, companies have been advised to intensify preparations and to carry out steps to ensure supply is not halted for customers by engaging with suppliers to assess possible areas of impacts. They have been told of the importance of implementing contingency plans, reviewing existing contracts and examining exchange rates for potential exposures.
It was revealed by Varadkar on Monday that twenty-four medicines were added to a “watch list” in Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Although up to 70 per cent of medicines, the Taoiseach claimed, either transit the UK or come directly from the UK, the Irish government had been advised against stockpiling medicines more widely.
Irish opposition parties, for the first time in earnest, were briefed about the no-deal Brexit plans in Dublin on Tuesday evening.
The Irish government have said that all necessary 17 pieces of legislation on Brexit – ranging from electricity supply to shipping checks – would be put into one “mega-bill” and the government was keen to consult the opposition on the scope of the bill in order to get it through the Dáil.
Elsewhere, in Europe, outside of the impenetrable fog that is Westminster politics, there are slow yet decisive provisions taking place.
Medef, a French business lobby, ordered companies on Wednesday to prepare for a worst-case scenario; the association for German carmakers said that the consequences of a no-deal Brexit would be “fatal,” especially for UK jobs; the Spanish government this week, following Ireland’s example, launched an online information service for citizens and businesses, including advice on how to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.
Leo Varadkar, making his first public appearance since the historic Commons rebuff of May’s deal, said that plans for a no-deal Brexit “are no longer contingency plans; they are being implemented”.
“The onus is on Westminster to come up with solutions … that Ireland and the EU can accept,” he added. “It is up to the British to decide what kind of Brexit it wants.”
Last month, the European Commission unveiled a temporary nine-month plan – which the bloc can terminate unilaterally – to keep planes in the air and goods and money flowing should the UK crash out. Many countries, especially those who trade extensively with the UK, are now beginning to enact bills in preparation for a disorderly exit.
Just this week, PwC, the multinational consulting firm, has called upon Irish retailers and manufacturers to carry out detailed reviews of their supply chains to ensure “day one readiness” can be achieved.
“No matter what the outcome, organisations will continue to transact business, and will need to adapt to any new circumstances,” Feargal O’Rourke, a managing partner at PwC, told the Irish Times.
Elsewhere, Bank of Ireland has said it will increase its unsecured foreign exchange fund to €50 million in the wake of the vote to meet customer demand.
The Irish Data Protection Commission and its UK equivalent, the Information Commissioner’s Office, have both set out guidance – mostly centring around personal data transfers – on what companies should do a no-deal scenario emerges.