What a no-deal Brexit means for individuals

Individuals could be affected by a no-deal Brexit in a number of ways. Much depends on how the EU responds in areas where the UK has already declared its intention to uphold existing arrangements. There are a number of areas where we may see significant upheaval.

EU nationals in the UK

There are around 3.7 million EU citizens living in the UK.

What we know already

  • The government has already agreed with the EU, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland to protect the rights of EU citizens and their family members already living in the UK.
  • Those already resident in the UK must apply to the EU settlement scheme before 31 December 2020 in a no-deal scenario.

The government has created a tool to assist those with any questions. No Brexit scenario should affect the rights of EU citizens already living in the UK. However, if we leave without a deal, there would be no agreed implementation period, so this guarantee would apply only to EU citizens resident in the UK before exit day.

Areas of uncertainty

Research from the Public Law Project into current legislation suggests there is a lack of statutory protections for EU nationals. Many of the protections and the access to services they currently get are contained within secondary legislation which is easily amended by the government.

The government’s current position is that EU citizens will ‘be able to continue to access in country benefits and services on broadly the same terms as now’. It remains unclear what ‘broadly the same’ means, but the prime minister has promised to enshrine existing rights in law in order to provide certainty to EU citizens already resident in the UK.

UK nationals in the EU

Around 1.7 million British nationals live in the EU.

What we know already

  • The UK has requested that the governments of EU member states echo its own promise to uphold the rights of those already living abroad, ensuring access to employment, healthcare, benefits and public services.
  • The government has also dedicated £138m to consular support for UK citizens living in the EU and has published country-by-country advice for British citizens.
  • Information on seeking healthcare abroad is available via the NHS.
  • The government will continue to pay child benefits, state pension contributions and disability benefits to those living in the EU.

Areas of uncertainty

Rights granted to UK citizens living in EU countries are the responsibility of the government of each individual country. Those affected should check with the relevant national authorities when seeking further information.

Household costs, imports, medication

28% of the food consumed in the UK comes from the EU. A no-deal Brexit risks a rise in food prices according to many retailers. This is due to:

  • consumer panic-buying causing some retailers to suffer food shortages
  • increased import taxes under WTO rules, with the cost passed on to consumers
  • transport delays as a result of more stringent border checks
  • a fall in the value of the pound.

In a no-deal scenario, UK organisations may have to pay duties and taxes on goods imported from the EU. This could affect organisations or individuals purchasing goods.

Furthermore, pharmacists have warned that there may be shortages of common medicines such as painkillers in a no-deal scenario. Around three quarters of the medicines and most of the clinical products used in the UK come from or via the EU. However, reduced traffic flow between Calais, and Dover or Folkestone could affect the ability of UK organisations to access medical supplies as quickly as they currently do.

Border checks on medicines would be required, further slowing down access to medical supplies. For example, Switzerland, a non-EU member, gains access to new medicines from the EU on average 157 days later than EU member states as a result of border checks and differing regulations. The government has committed £434m of funding to ensure vital medicines are available. It has also committed to extra warehouse space and building buffer stocks.