What a No-Deal Brexit Means to U.K. Drivers in the EU

(Bloomberg) -- The thought of not being able to drive your car to France, because your driving license will no longer be valid in the European Union, will alarm Britons wondering what a no-deal Brexit would mean.

It’s a revealing detail that emerged in the latest batch of 28 government papers that spell out how the U.K. will suffer more if the country falls out of the bloc without an agreement.

“These notices make clear firms would be hit with a sledgehammer in the event of ‘no deal,”’ Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the U.K.’s biggest business lobby, the CBI, said. “They also illustrate the extent of the disruption consumers can expect if ideology wins over evidence.”

What they show is that in these worse-case scenarios British businesses will have to swallow more red tape. That could disappoint those who voted “Leave” under the assumption that Brexit would free the country from the shackles of Brussels bureaucracy.

The U.K. insists all of this is highly unlikely to happen, and both sides are working toward a breakthrough by November -- and indeed the pound is responding positively to the upbeat mood music of late. Nevertheless, as the government’s own analysis shows, the consequences of not getting an agreement with the EU are significant.

Take, for example, the document that lays out rules for trade in most manufactured goods after Brexit. Products that meet British standards, but are destined for European markets, will need to undergo separate testing and conformity marking by an EU-approved body. But Britain will continue to accept, for a “time-limited” period, EU-approved goods without testing that they meet British standards.

No License

EU driving license holders, for instance, will see no change in the rules when they come to Britain after exit day. But Britons were advised they may have to obtain an International Driving Permit -- costing 5.5 pounds ($7) -- to drive in the EU after March 2019.

Anyone moving from the U.K. to the EU more permanently may have to retake their driving test in that country. The only way to avoid a second test? Exchange your U.K. license for an EU license before March 2019.

Cell phone users also face a financial hit. At present, they can use mobile phones to make calls, send texts and use mobile data within the EU for the same cost as in the U.K.

After a no-deal Brexit, mobile operators would be able to charge whatever surcharges they like, but the government pledged to legislate for a 45 pounds ($59) monthly cap.

Passports

U.K. passport holders will need their documents to have at least six months of validity left and have been issued within the last 10 years to travel in the majority of the EU after Brexit day.

In a prize for the most ardent Brexiteers, passports printed from March 30 will no longer have the words “European Union” on the cover, and will switch from burgundy to blue in late 2019.

Thursday’s documents also covered areas where a no-deal Brexit would see little immediate change, including the country’s competition regime, rules for oil and gas companies, data protection standards and journeys within the common travel area composed of the U.K. and Ireland.

The government was keen to play down how unlikely a no-deal Brexit is, while reiterating it’s pragmatic to prepare for all eventualities.

While Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has said a no-deal Brexit wouldn’t cause the “end of the world,” there is a hint in the documents that Britain might get less warning of an impending extinction event.

The U.K. would no longer participate in the EU’s Space Surveillance and Tracking program, which provides warnings about objects coming into the atmosphere. Even so, the main risk seems to be to the U.K. center that provides part of the service, and would no longer be able to outside the bloc.

The document promises that the U.S. would still supply warnings to the U.K.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.