MPs demand Plan B for no-deal Brexit

Failure to plan for the possibilitiy of a ‘no-deal’ outcome at the end of the Brexit negotiations would be “worse than gross negligence” the Foreign Affairs Commitee Chair Sir Crispin Blunt has said in response to the Government’s refusal to submit evidence to the Committee on this question.

In a letter to Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan, the Committee said there was “every possibility” of ‘no deal’ once the two-year negotiating period ended and outlining the Government’s plans for that would “minimise uncertainty”.

Sir Crispin went on to say that Britain could not afford a repeat of the previous Government’s failure to plan for every eventuality. “It is hard to believe that the Government has done no thinking about the legal and technical issues regarding a potential ‘no deal’. ”

The letter coincided with revelations that Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK’s Permanent Representative to the EU had warned ministers in October that it could take a decade to get a trade deal after leaving the EU.

Sir Ivan, who conducted David Cameron’s negotiation over the UK’s relationship with the EU, is thought to have warned that even if a deal is concluded, it may not survive the process of ratification in the national parliaments of every member state.

Foreign Office to boost EU missions
Meanwhile the Foreign Office is putting in place plans for the post-Brexit era, according Permanent Under Secretary Sir Simon MacDonald. In a reversal of previous years, where European posts were downsized in favour of major emerging economies, the FCO has refocused its attention on Europe.

“For the last 40-odd years we have increasingly engaged our European neighbours in Brussels rather than bilaterally. So in 2017 we shall begin to swing back to a more bilateral way of doing business,” Sir Simon told Civil Service magazine.

Top talent would be recruited to Europe to be “the eyes and ears of HMG overseas” he said, “to help secure the best deal for the UK”.

From next year, EU capitals can expect UK ambassadorships to become more senior and some embassies will become a bit bigger. “We need to be ready in Europe to take full advantage of Brexit,” he added.