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Suppose there is no deal, and a cliff-edge Brexit instead. What happens on the ground?

Who would police the movement of goods between the EU and the UK? The customs infrastructure would have to be large and sophisticated, and the motivation for black market operation would surge. Depending on the day-to-day relative currency values, money laundering and arbitrage opportunities would abound. If the availability of basic foodstuffs and household supplies were to decline, there would be a strong incentive for offshore suppliers (e.g., China, USA, Brazil) to ship directly to poorly-monitored distribution centers, bypassing monitoring stations. Industrial supplies might also be in demand, encouraging hoarding and under-the-table transactions. Labor migration might also occur to fill in the gaps left by the official system: is it better to have an "illegal" nursing staff at your hospital or "no" nursing staff? Or at your farm, or factory?

Just trying to visualize what would actually happen if people woke up in March 2018 and there is no actual regulatory environment and no capable regulatory agencies. Where would you buy your groceries if they are not available at the government-approved stores?

by asdf on Tue Aug 29th, 2017 at 01:15:13 PM EST
tbh it would be an absolute f...ing disaster, there is every chance that, for their own protection, borders would have to be closed.

It's possible that interim agreements might be thrashed out very quckly, but none of them will be on terms favorable to the UK, especially as sterling would nosedive

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Aug 29th, 2017 at 07:26:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given the UK makes up c. 6% of EU imports (I have seen various figures mentioned) and only some goods are taxable under WTO rules (if applicable), the marginal increase in customs infrastructure on the EU side would be relatively small - although heavily concentrated in ports like Calais and Rotterdam. I presume most international airports would already have the required infrastructure which could be extended to to cover UK imports.

On the UK side the problem is bigger by almost an order of magnitude because the EU27 makes up c. 45% of UK imports. And so a lot of goods could end up stuck in customs for lack of an infrastructure to clear them. I have written elsewhere of the consequence of a failure to reach a deal on a "Blue Skies" deal extension, as here there is no WTO fall-back. Flights between EU and UK will simply cease. Industrial production could collapse if supply chains get disrupted by goods stuck in transit.

All in all a giant clusterf*ck...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 30th, 2017 at 07:56:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But I would be surprised if the EU side (and possibly the UK) didn't have a team working on contingency plans for just such an eventuality.  There is a non-trivial probability of it happening rising all the time as talks make so little progress...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 30th, 2017 at 08:00:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If there is no deal and no preparation on the UK side for increased custom inspections, I would expect the imports from the EU not to be checked. After all, customs inspections don't inspect every lorry today. If there's a toll to be payed and no inspections, maybe some people will be less than honest, but that is less of a problem than if food stores would go without supplies.
by fjallstrom on Wed Aug 30th, 2017 at 10:57:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You would expect customs to expand and adapt in the first few weeks and months after a cliff edge Brexit, but who knows? There is NO customs infrastructure on the Irish land border and no plans to build any...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 30th, 2017 at 11:23:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Should there be a pressing need surely temporary structures could be delivered and set up while permanent structures were being built.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Aug 31st, 2017 at 03:30:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As far as the Irish government is concerned, there is a pressing need to find all manner of reasons why it simply can't be done.  Because doing so would be a political disaster...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 31st, 2017 at 08:53:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The UK has a new computerised customs system (CDS) scheduled to be delivered in January 2019. It is designed for 60 million (checks?) per year. The Freight Transport Association suggests that this would have to increase to 300 million [under WTO rules?].

Politico reported in March that even the initial delivery for Jan 2019 is in doubt, referring to the treasury Select Committee discussions.

Has the UK governement ever delivered a successful software system on time and to budget, never mind scaled one up by a factor of five during development

by oldremainmer48 on Thu Aug 31st, 2017 at 07:00:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does this mean that they won't be able to handle even imports from the US, let alone the EU?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Aug 31st, 2017 at 07:05:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have read reports of a scheduled live date in March 2019 which would leave virtually no time for debugging the software and any hardware glitches.  However provided Brexit doesn't introduce a whole new set of rules the actually scaling up from 60 to 300 Million transactions shouldn't present too much of a problem, given modern database and hardware designs, and provided there are enough physical bar code scanners and personnel to input all the data.  There is never a good time to introduce a major software change, but doing so at the point of Brexit seems to be just asking for trouble.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 31st, 2017 at 08:49:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a mistype in the Politico Link which should be

Politico

by oldremainmer48 on Thu Aug 31st, 2017 at 09:59:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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