What happens if Boris Johnson fails to get a Brexit deal before December 31?
Boris Johnson faces a Brexit deadline – but what if we don’t get a deal? (Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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Brexit talks were already going down to the wire before Covid-19 struck the negotiating team.
With just six weeks to go until the UK faces crashing out of the EU without a trade deal, the two sides had been meeting in Brussels to try to reach an agreement.
The need for any deal to be approved by the European Parliament and member states means there is very little time left for negotiations.
The major issues in the talks remain access to UK fishing waters, the "level playing field" designed to prevent unfair competition on issues including state subsidies and the governance arrangements for any agreement.
Going into this round of negotiations in Brussels Lord Frost said there had been "some progress in a positive direction in recent days" but "we may not succeed" in reaching a deal.
And if we don't, the UK will leave on what Boris Johnson desribes as "Australia-style" terms, rather than getting a "Canada-style trade deal".
But what on earth does that mean – and what will it mean for you, your finances and the future of Britain?
Here's what you need to know.
Will we get another extension?
Boris Johnson says no, despite the virus infecting the negotiation team.
"We are not extending the transition period," a UK Government spokesman told the Mirror.
What is an Australia-style deal?
European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier
This is Boris Johnson’s way of saying ‘no deal’ – or, at least no trade deal.
Australia doesn’t have a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU. It has a number of agreements on individual matters, like scientific cooperation and the export of wine – but the bulk of its trade with the bloc is done according to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
In practice, that means tariffs would be placed on goods traded between the UK and EU, as well as quota restrictions – a limit on the amount of a certain type of product we can sell to the bloc without extra charges.
And it means more customs checks for traders.
It also means we’d still have to negotiate separate arrangements for a host of non-trade cooperation, like policing and scientific collaboration.
In this respect, Australia already has a decades-long head start on us.
Boris Johnson refuses to seek Brexit extension despite Covid-19 halting talks
Mirror Politics newsletter – the e-mail you need to navigate a crisis-hit UK
Is it the same as a no-deal Brexit?
UK negotiator Lord David Frost
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Not quite. Brexit has already happened on January 31, when the UK left the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement.
That deal contained an 11-month transition period which continues all EU rules and alignment in Britain as if we never left.
Other relationships negotiated with the EU in this deal will remain in place beyond January 1. That means, among other things, protections for EU citizens living in the UK, and for UK ex-pats in EU nations would still be in place.
But leaving without a trade deal will mean the soft cushioning from the economic reality of Brexit suddenly comes to an end.
Will it mean I have to get a new passport?
No. Your passport will work just fine. You may need to pay for a visa or ‘visa waiver’ to visit or work in EU countries after 1 January.
But these arrangements were negotiated in the Withdrawal Agreement and won’t be affected by trade deal talks.
Trade advisor Tony Abbott says animal welfare standards shouldn't be in Brexit deal
What would an 'Australia-style deal' mean?
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Lorry parks and border disruption
Increased checks at the border risk serious disruption on motorways in the South of England.
The government has designated 10 sites in Kent, Essex, Birmingham, Warrington and North Wales to act as “lorry parks” – holding areas for freight transport to avoid tailbacks on the motorways.
Truckers will also be legally required to obtain a “passport” to drive into Kent.
Brexit negotiations halted after EU negotiator tests positive for Covid-19
Food prices and shortages
Supermarkets are facing around £3.1billion in tariffs on food and drink unless a deal can be reached, trade bodies have warned.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said retailers will have "nowhere to go other than to raise the price of food" to mitigate the tariffs if there is no deal before Christmas.
Around 85% of foods imported from the EU will face tariffs of more than 5%, while the average tariff on food imported from the EU would be more than 20%.
And increased border checks could cause transit delays – leading to shortages of fresh food in extreme circumstances.
Health experts have warned border disruption will put the UK at risk of shortages of vital medicines.
The Nuffield Trust say around three quarters of medicines come from or through the EU market.
And the Government has written to suppliers, asking them to stockpile essential drugs – despite firms warning this may not be possible due to the pandemic.