Bitesize Brexit: Do you know the answers?

26th Nov 2019
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Published 20 November 2019

Beat your Brexit bafflement with our essential Q and A

After all the speculation about a no-deal Brexit fizzing out into nothing, and with the UK and EU in the midst of another pause in the process, where do we stand now?

If you’ve not been following every little detail and find yourself baffled by the whole saga, you wouldn’t be alone.

But now things are on ice, as a General Election takes place, we can have a moment to breathe, reflect, and understand what is going on.

Could a no-deal still happen? Are we going to have another referendum? What do businesses have to do to be ready for a February 2020 exit?

Read on for our Q and A to give you the essential facts and answer those key questions you might still have.

When has Brexit been delayed until?

31 January 2020

What now?

Brexit is effectively on ice while we have a General Election.

Is the UK still going to leave the European Union?

It’s not 100% guaranteed but yes, unless something dramatic happens soon – the UK will leave eventually. It’s more of a question of time and how exactly we leave, rather than if we leave.

What effect will the General Election have?

A new Government could change the picture entirely again. If Labour win a majority they’ve pledged to renegotiate with the EU and hold a second referendum. The Lib Dems have promised to cancel Brexit completely if they win. If the Conservatives win a sizeable majority, it’s likely the Withdrawal Agreement would be approved relatively quickly afterwards. That’s their promise.

However, if we end up with another hung Parliament, with no party having an overall majority, things become less clear.

Could the UK still leave with no-deal at some stage?

Yes. A no-deal outcome is still possible as early as 1 February 2020 – the day after the new extension deadline – if the Withdrawal Agreement is not ratified by the EU Parliament and the UK Parliament and no other deal is agreed. However, both the EU and UK Government say they don’t want it to happen, having successfully negotiated this deal.

How else could it occur that we leave with no deal?

The other potential scenario for no-deal is this: The UK Parliament approves the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and enters into the agreed transition period, during which the UK effectively remains part of the EU. But it is unable to strike a new partnership with the EU before this ends on 31 December 2020. It’s possible therefore that the UK exits on 1 January 2021 without a deal. In fact, the UK must apply by July 2020 if it wants to extend the transition period beyond 31 December 2020. Failure to apply by that point could in theory lead to a no-deal outcome in January 2021.

If the new Withdrawal Agreement is agreed by January 31 2020, will the UK enter into in a transition period with the EU?

Yes. If the new Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by the EU and the UK is passed, the arrangement is for the UK to remain in the EU in a transition period until 31 December 2020. So, that means businesses won’t have to worry about changes to rules during that period.

Could the transition last longer than that?

Yes, this could be extended by one year or two years, if both parties agree. So, it’s possible the UK could remain in the EU, under all of its rules and part of its institutions until 31 December 2022. However, the Conservative party has ruled out an extension already in the election campaign.

If the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is passed, is that the end of negotiations?

No is the simple answer. This agreement could be seen as merely the end of the beginning, rather than the beginning of the end. If ratified and passed by both the UK and EU Parliaments, the Withdrawal Agreement then opens up the start of negotiations about the future relationship between the two parties.

They will have to then go back to talking about trade deals, security partnerships, and other important matters for once Britain ceases to be a member.

Often, trades deals take many years. The Canada-EU trade deal, which was concluded last year, took nine years, for example. There will be matters such as fishing rights, work visas and the UK's ability to do trade with other countries to figure out.

What other scenarios could happen?

  1. Customs Union: In the event of another hung Parliament, opposition MPs put forward an amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement for the UK to remain in the Customs Union or to form a new agreement along these lines. Previous votes suggest there may be enough support for this among MPs in this Parliament.
  2. A second referendum. One way this could occur is if MPs pass amendments to Boris Johnson’s deal stating that it is approved, subject to a confirmatory vote. Or following a General Election, a new Government - either Labour or a coalition involving opposition parties such as the Lib Dems and SNP – could call another public vote.
  3. Brexit cancelled: It is also still possible a new UK Government could revoke Article 50, cancelling Brexit entirely. That is extremely unlikely. The Lib Dems are the only UK-wide party to state this as their policy.

We'd invite you to also read about:

- What Keytime is doing to prepare for Brexit with software updates

- What Brexit means for accountants' business clients