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How A No-Deal Brexit Will Likely Disrupt U.K.-E.U. Financial Ties

Aug 23, 2018
Originally published on August 23, 2018 5:22 pm
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Earlier today, the U.K. government gave its citizens a preview of what crashing out of the European Union could look like next year. It's not a pretty picture. NPR's Frank Langfitt has the story from London.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Time's running out to negotiate a new deal between the U.K. and the EU. Today, U.K. Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tried to allay fears about the impact of leaving without an agreement, including worries the U.K. would face a shortage of lettuce and tomatoes or might need to fly food to remote areas.

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DOMINIC RAAB: So let me assure you that contrary to one of the wilder claims, you will still be able to enjoy a BLT after Brexit, and there are no plans to deploy the army to maintain food supplies.

LANGFITT: A no-deal Brexit is expected to disrupt financial ties and could make it difficult for some Britons who've retired to countries such as Spain, France and Italy to access their pensions. But Raab thought negotiators could find pragmatic solutions that would benefit both sides.

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RAAB: It's hardly in the interest of southern Spain to do harm to the U.K. pensioners out there. And what you would expect and I'm confident that we would see even in the unlikely outcome of no deal is actually cooler heads prevailing.

LANGFITT: But the government also made it clear that some businesses would pay a price. The government told importers to prepare for a more costly bureaucratic world of customs declarations, freight forwarders and value-added tax. Simon Usherwood is deputy director of the U.K. in a Changing Europe, a group of university professors who focus on Brexit. He says those new requirements would fall especially hard on small businesses. Usherwood spoke by Skype.

SIMON USHERWOOD: The guy working in an office out the back of his house - for him to be doing this extra kind of work is going to be a real burden.

LANGFITT: Larger businesses are also worried about the impact of new customs checks.

USHERWOOD: The Road Haulage Association really hasn't been impressed. They've been very clear that any disruption to their business because of border controls is pretty lethal to the business model that they have.

LANGFITT: Brexiteers painted a rosy picture of independence, free trade deals and prosperity when they convinced voters to back leaving the EU in 2016, but the country's leaders have spent the past two years arguing amongst themselves.

USHERWOOD: The government and the political class haven't found a way through this. They still don't have a plan. They don't have a consensus.

LANGFITT: And they don't have much time. The EU wants a deal by this fall. The U.K. is scheduled to leave the European Union at the end of March. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.