15 November 2018

As Prime Minister Theresa May began the difficult task of selling to her Cabinet colleagues the Brexit text she has agreed with Brussels, the European Commission published its contingency action plan in the event of a no deal scenario with the UK.

Its chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, had already warned that “we’re not there yet”, so the Commission may have decided that it needed to prepare for any eventuality.

Available at https://bit.ly/2DfW6OV, its paper outlines a limited number of contingency actions in priority areas that could be implemented if no agreement is reached.

These areas are: residency and visa-related issues; financial services; air transport; customs; sanitary/phytosanitary rules; the transfer of personal data; and climate policy.

“Any contingency measures would only be taken in limited areas where they are necessary to protect the vital interests of the EU and where preparedness measures are not currently possible,” the Commission said. “They would be temporary in nature, limited in scope, adopted unilaterally by the EU and must remain compatible with EU law.”

It defines “preparedness measures” as those it must implement to take account of Brexit while “contingency measures” cover the possibility of no deal.

With regard to visas, the Commission proposes to grant UK citizens visa-free travel to the EU after Brexit. This would mean that UK citizens would not need a visa when travelling to the Schengen area for short stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

In the scenario where the UK leaves the EU without a deal, this would apply as of 30 March 2019. If a deal is reached, however, it would apply as of the end of the transition period, as outlined in the Withdrawal Agreement.

This proposal is entirely conditional upon the UK also granting reciprocal and non-discriminatory visa-free travel for all EU Member States, in line with the principle of visa reciprocity.

See https://bit.ly/2Pnc154 for full details of the Commission proposal (which will have to be agreed by the other Member States and the European Parliament).