Brexit III: This time it’s serious.

The British Parliament reports back to work on the 3rd September, with less than two months until the absolutely last Brexit deadline ever (well, that’s what they tell us). These are likely to be 60 of the most volatile, eventful and controversial days in British political history, so hold onto your hats!

New Faces
After a seemingly endless leadership contest in early summer, Boris Johnson was finally elected as the leader of the Conservative party on 23rd July, just as everybody knew he would be. Johnson immediately declared his prime objective was that of leaving the EU, “do or die”, on 31st October.

He didn’t have much choice. The party membership wanted a leaver, and Johnson was the most visible member of the victorious Leave campaign in 2016. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party, which seriously ate into Tory support in the EU elections in May, has threatened the existence of the Conservative Party.Read more...

  The Farage threat explains why Johnson immediately appointed one of the most right-wing cabinets for years, which included several prominent supporters of Vote Leave. As well as Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, Priti Patel and Dominic Raab, he also installed the campaign’s co-founder, Dominic Cummings, as a “special adviser to the government.”

Johnson has promised to put Farage “back in his box”, while Farage responded, “If Boris wants a fight, hold my jacket.” This macho posturing by two men in their 50s may be a bit pathetic, but it could well have serious consequences. A no deal Brexit is the biggest risk, and one that looks more likely every moment.

What is No Deal?
In July 2017, Boris Johnson said, “There is no plan for no deal because we are going to get a great deal.” Two years on, that great deal looks more elusive than ever and Johnson’s chancellor Sajid Javid has announced £2.1 billion will be set aside for no-deal preparations.

If, as seems increasingly likely, no agreement is reached with the EU by 31st October, and no extension period is requested or granted by the EU’s 27 members, the UK will leave the EU by default, in what is referred to as a “disorderly exit”.

The alternatives to a No Deal exit are to leave with a negotiated agreement, such as the one that the UK parliament repeatedly rejected when Theresa May presented it. This agreement remains the preferred option of the EU, while Boris Johnson still hopes to persuade the EU to change it by removing the Irish backstop, which the EU claims is non-negotiable.

The only other alternative is yet another extension period, which would have to be requested and granted. Johnson, however, has made it quite clear that he does not intend to delay Brexit any longer and Emmanuel Macron is not the only EU leader who will be exasperated with and opposed to any further delay.

An extension, then, is unlikely in the current situation, but the current situation is extraordinarily volatile – with the Conservatives and DUP enjoying just a one seat majority in the commons. A no confidence vote appears to be inevitable, and if it prospers, a general election will be unavoidable.

The question then will be what the new parliament looks like, and whether it arrives too late to avoid no deal.

Are you prepared?
For British expats in Spain, there is simply no argument: a negotiated exit with a transition period and several clear guarantees will be infinitely preferable to a no deal exit. Leaving with no deal will leave all sorts of issues, from health and pensions to living, working and doing business, unaddressed.

There’s a strong chance that several of those issues will be resolved more or less satisfactorily (a no deal exit is the opposite of a clean break – it will kickstart negotiations that will carry on for years), but at the moment, the uncertainty that has dominated Brexit for three years continues, and a no deal is the most uncertain outcome of all.

The UK Embassy has already advised British residents in Spain to ensure their residency and empadronamiento papers are in order, and to change UK-issued driving licences for Spanish ones. There is likely to be much more advice and information for British residents in Spain if a no deal exit does take place, and all expats are advised to follow the www.gov.uk website, as well as its Facebook or Twitter accounts.