LONDON – Britain is due to leave the European Union in just over four months’ time but it still cannot count on a transition period to cushion the shock for its economy.
Prime Minister Theresa May last week agreed on a draft withdrawal deal with Brussels. But it faces stiff resistance in her Conservative Party, meaning it could fail in parliament.
Following is an outline of what a no-deal Brexit might look like:
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney says Brexit without a transition would deliver a “large negative shock” to the economy, which could be akin to the 1970s oil crisis.
The International Monetary Fund forecasts the economy would shrink without a Brexit deal.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research, a think tank, predicts the economy would grow by 0.3 percent in 2019 and 2020 without a deal, compared with 1.9 percent and 1.6 percent if there is one.
Barriers to trade would go up, at least in the short term, hurting companies on both sides of the English Channel.
British exporters would face EU import tariffs which average 5 percent but are higher for major British exports such as cars which would pay a 10 percent tariff.
Manufacturers across the board are also worried about border delays which would hurt their just-in-time production.
But Brexit supporters say technology would ease any border delays and exports would flow freely if Britain gets a future EU free trade deal.
They also say deals with faster-growing economies such as the United States, India and China would help Britain more than remaining close to the EU. Britain’s budget forecasters say the benefits of these bilateral trade deals are likely to be small.
Ports and stockpiling
Ports and airports are likely to see the first impact. The government has plans to turn two highways and an airport in the south of England into truck parks if needed.
France is preparing various measures, notably those dealing with customs controls and checks at ports, in case there is no Brexit deal, according to French transport minister Elisabeth Borne.
The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply estimates that one in 10 British businesses fear they would go bankrupt if goods were delayed by 10 to 30 minutes at customs.
Many manufacturers are stockpiling parts to keep production lines open in the event of border delays. The British government has asked drugmakers to stockpile medicines for six weeks above normal operations.
Budget and Bank of England
Finance minister Philip Hammond has built up a fiscal war chest to spend more in case of a Brexit shock to the economy.
But he has also warned that, longer term, a no-deal Brexit would mean a rethink of his promise to end austerity.
Brexit supporters say leaving the EU with no deal would help the public finances because it would mean an immediate end to payments by London into the EU budget.
The Bank of England has warned investors not to assume that it would rush to the rescue in the event of a no-deal Brexit shock. A fall in the value of the pound would push up inflation, potentially preventing interest rate cuts.
Given the likely economic hit, a no-deal Brexit would probably push the pound down, adding to its losses against the U.S dollar of about 13 percent since the 2016 referendum.
A poll of market strategists published on Nov. 1 predicted sterling would sink by more than 6 percent if no deal is reached, but could rise about 5.5 percent if one is struck.
A weaker pound could push up the share prices of many of the country’s biggest companies which do business around the world such as British American Tobacco and GSK in the FTSE 100, which makes 70 percent of its income overseas.
But there could be punishment for the more domestically focused FTSE 250 companies who make half their money at home.
That would make sense if the traditional correlations hold true. Last week, the trend briefly broke down and the FTSE 100 and the pound both fell, moving in rare lockstep as the growing risk of a disorderly divorce spooked investors.
The economic shock of a no-deal Brexit would normally encourage investors to seek the safe haven of British government bonds. Gilt yields, which move in the opposite direction to prices, fell by the most since 2016 on Thursday.
However, a no-deal Brexit would be a major blow to May and could usher in a new national election. The left-wing Labour Party leads some opinion polls and its plans for big increases in public spending would unsettle some investors.