The chaos a no-deal Brexit may cause

A no-deal Brexit could harm Airbus' operations in Britain, warned the European aerospace giant's chief, Mr Tom Enders, in January. The company employs 14,000 people in the UK.
A no-deal Brexit could harm Airbus' operations in Britain, warned the European aerospace giant's chief, Mr Tom Enders, in January. The company employs 14,000 people in the UK.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Britain's seeming inability to decide on an agreement to exit the European Union in an orderly manner has made a so-called no-deal Brexit more likely just days until April 12 - the latest deadline.

Here's what could happen if Britain leaves the bloc with no deal.

Ports could be jammed

Ferries and trains zip back and forth between south-east England and Calais in France carrying food, goods and people between Britain and the rest of the EU.

If Britain leaves without a divorce agreement, many worry that issues with new Customs arrangements could lead to kilometres of traffic jams, forcing trucks to sit for hours on highways as food rots and manufacturing processes grind to a halt.

Britain has said it will allow trucks to drive off ferries and trains without extra checks and declarations, but other EU countries have not said the same about traffic from Britain.

Food shortages could erupt

Farmers and food producers have warned that supplies could dwindle. Nearly a third of the food consumed in Britain comes from the EU, but if the trucks carrying the food in are stuck, consumers might find it harder to buy perishables like lettuce and tomatoes.


Food producers also have warned that the extra paperwork, a weaker British currency and tariffs on food could increase prices. A no-deal Brexit could also lead to companies in the food industry closing.

Manufacturing could halt

A large part of British industry relies on just-in-time manufacturing, which means that parts travel between Britain and Europe constantly and arrive within minutes of being used in factories.

This process could collapse if traffic comes to a standstill at Dover or Calais and the parts that manufacturers need are stuck in transit.

Medicine shortages could loom

The pharmaceutical industry has expressed concern that a no-deal Brexit, which could cause the British pound to plunge, could in turn make medicine supplies in Britain far more valuable - and profitable - to sell overseas, leading to severe shortages in the country.

Manufacturers have called on the government to impose a temporary export ban on vital medicines to protect against that possibility.

British and EU citizens will be in limbo

The European Commission (EC) has urged EU member states to ensure that British citizens living within their boundaries can continue to be legal residents, but this depends on each nation.

The British residents of other EU countries may also find themselves ineligible for healthcare, and the government has advised them to take out separate health insurance until they have residency permits.

Mrs Theresa May, Britain's Prime Minister, has said that EU citizens in Britain will be able to stay even if the country leaves without a deal, and that she has a settlement proposal for them.

Border with Ireland could turn messy

Ireland, an EU member, wants to avoid a physical border with Northern Ireland, which is part of Britain, because such a barrier could undermine the 1998 Good Friday agreement that helped end sectarian violence.


But a no-deal Brexit could abruptly impose restrictions on the people, goods and services crossing between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Business as usual for banks and airlines

The financial sector has been preparing for a no-deal Brexit since shortly after Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016, so few expect a visible effect on the sector in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The EC also has passed legislation that will prevent disruption for airlines flying in the region.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2019, with the headline 'The chaos a no-deal Brexit may cause'. Print Edition | Subscribe