UK gov’t ramps up “no-deal” plans but remains confident of EU trade pact

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LONDON, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) — British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on Friday insisted that it remains confident of Britain securing a future trading deal with the European Union, as London’s national newspapers zoomed in on the possible impact of a no-deal Brexit.

A spokesperson at Downing Street Number 10 said although ministers remained confident of a deal, the government was to ramp up planning for a no-deal outcome.

“As a responsible government we need to plan for every eventuality. The Cabinet agreed that no-deal remains an unlikely but possible scenario in six months’ time,” added the spokesperson.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab was holding an extended negotiating session by telephone Friday with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Ahead of the talks, Raab said in a Daily Telegraph article: “No one should pretend that no deal would be straightforward. There would be risks and some short-term disruption.”

He added: “We can mitigate by taking a ‘continuity’ approach, recognizing certain EU-approved goods for import into the UK. But, in a no-deal scenario, we can’t control the EU’s response to UK goods going the other way.”

The latest batch of no-deal position papers from the government say British motorists may have to apply for International Driving Permits if they head to Europe after March 29 when Britain leaves the EU.

No-deal frenzy in the media was also fuel by a “worse case scenario” warning from Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England. He warned Theresa May’s senior ministers that a chaotic no-deal Brexit could crash house prices and send another financial shock through the economy.

During a private briefing Carney warned that house prices in Britain could fall as much as 35 percent over three years.

Carney was later accused of spread doom, with former Brexit minister David Jones, telling the Daily Telegraph: “The fact is that the economy has defied the predictions of many Remainers and is doing well, with record levels of employment. Mark Carney should stop going around spreading gloom and despondency and concentrate on the benefits of Brexit.”

The new set of “no-deal” papers from the government also warning that roaming charges that allow British people to make low-cost cell phone calls in EU countries could also come to an end.

But the British government said the largest mobile operators, covering 85 per cent of customers, had agreed not to reintroduce the charges in the event of no deal.

British people traveling to Europe may also have to ensure their passport is valid for at least six months when they visit the EU in the event of no deal, to comply with EU regulations for third countries.

The Independent newspaper Friday reported that France has said it could halt flights and Eurostar trains from Britain if there is no agreement when Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.

Meanwhile, focus switched to the as yet unresolved situation of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. The border between the two will be the only EU land border within the Britain isles.

A new study Friday suggested that Brexit will threaten peace in Northern Ireland as well as disrupt cross-border cooperation and create potentially lethal divides between British and Irish people in Northern Ireland.

In what the Guardian described as the most comprehensive study of the impact leaving the EU will have on the region, researchers found that Brexit was seen as “manna from heaven” for pro-Republic party Sinn Fein who aspire to see a unification of Northern Ireland with Ireland.

Queen’s University in Belfast and Ulster University, in conjunction with the Committee on the Administration of Justice, conducted in-depth interviews over an 18-month period.

The Guardian quoted Colin Harvey, professor of human rights law at Queen’s University, saying: “Brexit will threaten the peace process and weaken protections for human rights and equality.”

Harvey added: “This is a profound constitutional moment for Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland. Brexit will threaten the peace process and weaken protections for human rights and equality.”

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