NEWS
19/12/2018 06:00 GMT | Updated 19/12/2018 13:51 GMT

100 Days Until Brexit: The Government's ‘To-Do List’ Exposes The Potential Chaos Ahead

Deal or no deal, here are the issues that need fixing by March 29.

An ever-growing Brexit ‘to-do list’ threatens to engulf the government as Theresa May puts Britain on alert for a ‘no-deal’.

With the UK on Wednesday marking 100 days until it leaves the EU, ministers are still battling to get to grips with dozens of pressing issues.

On Tuesday, May summoned her cabinet colleagues to a crunch meeting to discuss options for a no-deal Brexit.

The cabinet decided to step-up preparation for a scenario in which the UK crashes out of the EU, drafting in thousands of civil servants to work over Christmas and issuing an unprecedented blitz of advice for businesses and citizens.

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Theresa May has put Britain on alert for a no-deal Brexit.

The decision came ahead of a fresh vote for May’s beleaguered withdrawal agreement in January, which is seen as the country’s final hope of avoiding no-deal.

With the clock ticking, here are just some of the outstanding problems which lack a clear solution.

EU citizens in Britain

The fate of EU citizens in the UK was thrown into doubt earlier in December when new guidance suggested those hoping to stay would face a stricter cut-off point.

Despite pleas from the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, for the bloc’s citizens in Britain not to be used as “bargaining chips”, it was suggested earlier this month that only those who had lived in the UK before next March would be able to seek so-called “settled” status.

The harsher terms for EU citizens, which reduces the cut-off by over a year, would become operative in the event of a no-deal and could potentially halt the free movement of people earlier than was previously thought, the FT reported.

It comes after confirmation that all EU citizens living in Britain will be required to apply to remain, with application fees of £65 for those over 16-years-old.

“If your application is successful, you’ll get either settled or pre-settled status,” the government website said.

But a minister’s appearance before a parliamentary committee in October sparked confusion over the fate of EU citizens in the event of “no-deal”.

Caroline Noakes suggested that businesses would need to carry out “vigorous” checks on staff to ensure those from Europe had the right to be in the country, but couldn’t provide details of what they might need to do.

A new immigration system

In the last week, Sajid Javid, the home secretary, sparked outrage from the business community and his cabinet colleagues when harsh new restrictions on immigration after Brexit were mooted. 

Javid was said to be considering introducing a minimum earning threshold for those wishing to come to the UK for work.

The £30,000 floor was criticised by representatives of the British hospitality industry, while the reported plans were slammed on social media for potentially ruling out many frontline NHS jobs.

And ministers reportedly came to a standoff over the plot during a crunch cabinet meeting. No decision has been announced.

The army’s role

The armed forces have been put on standby to assist ministers in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit.

The revelation, which came on Wednesday, followed HuffPost UK’s report that senior military officers had been drafted in to help Whitehall prepare.

It follows further reports that police forces were planning to draft in the army to help them deal with civil unrest in the event Britain crashes out of the EU.

But Sajid Javid told the BBC at the time that the public need not worry and that government departments had to “prepare for all possible outcomes”.

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The supply of medicines and treatments

Supply shortages at hospitals and pharmacies are already being reported, according to the BBC, with Brexit being blamed.

Stock problems with certain medicines are nothing new, but an industry body which negotiates drug prices for pharmacists told BBC Radio 5 Live on Wednesday that Brexit and the possibility of no-deal is affecting the supply and price of generic versions of drugs.

Yet hospitals and patients have been told not to stockpile medicines.

It comes after warnings that the UK’s access to new cancer treatments could be threatened by a “no-deal”, according to Cancer Research UK.

Meanwhile Britain’s ability to import radioactive materials needed to diagnose patients and determine the need for radiotherapy and chemotherapy, as well as for radiotherapy itself, could also be thrown into doubt if the country crashes out of the EU, according to the British Nuclear Medicine Society.

Safeguarding food supplies

March is Britain’s “darkest hour” in terms of having a self-sufficient food supply, according to industry bible The Grocer, due in large part to the time of year – the month is between seasons.

While big supermarkets have been largely tight-lipped about their views on Brexit, many have said that fresh food cannot be stockpiled.

And the British Retail Consortium said government should be pursuing some sort of deal as “our food supply chains are extremely fragile”.

The issue could become one of the most pressing, and potentially hazardous, facing ministers after 29 March.

Planes, trains and ferries

The government has said it fully intends to keep Britain’s skies, seas and the Channel Tunnel open after 29 March, but operators have warned of worryingly slow progress.

The government is confident of delivering a good deal which achieves this ambition,” the government’s official position states. But what happens in the event of a no-deal?

According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), EU aviation laws would be mirrored for at least two years after March, but the EU would not necessarily recognise this.

The CAA warns commercial airline pilots, for example, that their UK licences would not be valid on EU registered aircraft – posing a huge problem for airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet which operate planes registered in Europe. A similar problem exists for cabin crew with CAA-approved training.

Meanwhile, Channel Tunnel owner EuroTunnel said that it is putting in place technology in order to scan vehicles and conduct more thorough checks at borders, but hasn’t outlined its plans for no-deal.

The government meanwhile is reportedly battling itself over a fund for ferry firms as part of a project to use their boats to ship in crucial supplies.

Acrimony broke out in Whitehall between Treasury bean counters and Department for Transport bosses over a planned multi-million finance deal, the FT reported.

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Money continuing to flow

While banks and insurance cautiously welcomed May’s proposed withdrawal agreement last month, many said they needed further clarify over the future of financial services in Britain – with predictions that a no-deal would cause “severe and unpredictable damage” to the sector.

So-called “passporting” of financial services enables firms to operate across the EU, but the bloc has been steadfast in its insistence that this will not apply to Britain after Brexit.

Many firms have set up headquarters in Ireland or elsewhere, but others have said larger parts of their operation are at risk of wholesale relocation.

CORRECTION: This article was updated on 19 December to correct the fact that radioactive materials are used in the process of diagnosing the need for chemotherapy in patients, not to deliver chemotherapy itself, as the article originally stated.