A no-deal Brexit would cut the UK off from trade agreements with more than 70 countries, the government has admitted amid mounting tension within the cabinet as negotiations with Brussels enter their final stages.
Trade with major economies including Japan, Canada and South Korea could face new tariffs and barriers if the UK fails to strike a Brexit agreement, according to the latest round of government papers on preparations for a no-deal scenario.
The UK plans to ‘roll over’ existing EU trade agreements by striking new bilateral deals that are “identical or substantially the same” and keep foreign markets open to British goods.
However, talks are so far only sufficiently advanced on two existing agreements covering southern and eastern African states.
Papers published yesterday also reveal a no-deal Brexit could trigger a new ‘cod war’ with the EU as European fishing boats would no longer have any right to fish in British waters and could face enforcement action from UK government vessels.
British fishermen would in turn no longer be able to fish in European waters or land catches in EU ports. The lucrative trade in Scottish fish and shellfish to European consumers would be badly hit.
Eurostar train services through the Channel Tunnel could be disrupted without new agreements with Belgium and France, and electricity prices could rise if the UK was locked out of the common market for energy.
And British holidaymakers in Europe could also lose access to their Netflix and Spotify accounts under a no-deal Brexit because EU ‘portability’ rules that enforce continent-wide access to streaming services would no longer apply.
Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said: “Securing a good deal with our EU partners remains our top priority.
“But, if the EU doesn’t match the ambition and pragmatism we’ve showed, we have the plans in place to avoid, mitigate or manage the risk of no deal – and make a success of Brexit.” Around 40 EU free trade agreements accounting for 12 per cent of the UK’s total trade “will cease to apply to the UK when we leave the EU”, a document from the Department for International Trade confirmed.
It was among 29 technical papers released in the final tranche of guidance on preparations for a no-deal Brexit, bringing the total number of documents to 104.
New papers cover areas ranging from the regulation of pesticides, trading in electricity, rail transport and consumer rights.
The Scottish Government constitutional relations secretary Michael Russell called on the UK government to change course. “The reality of a disastrous ‘no deal’ Brexit looms large in this latest guidance from the UK government,” Mr Russell said.
“Potentially higher electricity prices, difficulties recruiting frontline staff for the NHS and other key sectors and damaging disruption to exports will affect everyone in Scotland, but will hit our rural and coastal communities the hardest.
“Scotland did not vote for Brexit and so I call upon the UK government to immediately change course to mitigate against the worst impacts.”
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: “The government’s no-deal planning won’t reassure anyone.
“Ministers have barely scratched the surface of what would need to be done in the event of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.”
Sir Keir added: “The truth is the only reason the Tories are talking about no deal is because their civil war on Europe has put any chance of a good deal for Britain at risk.”
With just days until a crucial EU summit where leaders will attempt to sign off a the UK’s ‘divorce’ agreement, Theresa May tried to shore up support for key compromises that risk collapsing her government.
The Prime Minister would never agree to a Brexit deal that “traps” the UK permanently in a customs union, Downing Street has said, following reports Mrs May was ready to concede a ‘backstop’ plan for the Irish border cannot have a firm end date.
Speculation about possible cabinet resignations is mounting following a meeting of the ‘inner cabinet’ on Thursday where ministers were presented with the outline of a possible deal with Brussels.
Mr Raab added to that speculation by insisting the backstop to maintain the status quo along the Irish border must be “time limited”.
European Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said yesterday “it does appear possible there will be a breakthrough” at Wednesday’s summit.