Although the UK still seems to be in denial about the risk of crashing out of the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019 at 11 pm (GMT), the other EU member states are actively preparing for this possibility. Not because most people want it – apart from a few disaster capitalists who’d get filthily rich, nobody would benefit – but because the UK Government is still asking for things that have been ruled out by the EU a long time ago, and it’s quite possible they won’t be able to drop their red lines quickly enough to reach a deal before the deadline. (Differently from most negotiations, the status quo is not the default: If the parties cannot agree on anything, the UK will leave the EU anyway.)
One “interesting” question with regard to a no-deal Brexit is what happens to rEU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the rEU – everything that has been agreed in the area is depending on a deal being reached, and if that doesn’t happen, a lot of people will end up not knowing what their status is.
Some countries are starting to look into this. Here’s for instance a tweet about the status of UK citizens in Germany:
A representative from the Auswärtiges Amt confirmed today that Germany and the EU27 are preparing for “no deal“
Brits in Germany “wouldn’t be asked to leave the country immediately” and the federal govt is working out details of the legal status we’d get in the event of no deal
— British in Germany (@BritsinGermany) June 26, 2018
Let’s assume for a moment that Germany decides that any UK citizen who has moved to Germany, got a job, found a place to stay and registered with the local authorities before 29 March 2019 will be allowed to stay. Let’s also assume that they’ll publicise this in late 2018. What will the effect be?
We must assume that the media will be full of apocalyptic stories throughout January, February and March. Stories about companies shutting down or relocating to the continent. Stories about how the supermarkets will run out of food in April. Stories about cancer patients not getting any chemo treatments after March. Stories about how UK citizens won’t be allowed to move to the EU after Brexit.
Of course it’s possible the government will react to these stories by reaching a last-minute deal (although I don’t see how the EU would be able to ratify it in time), or by deciding to remain in the EU.
Surely many people will decide, however, that it would be much nicer to watch Brexit day from abroad. Why not take unpaid leave from work, rent out their home, and move to another EU country and get a job – any job! – before Brexit day? If Brexit then gets cancelled or turns out to be marvellous, they can easily move back, and otherwise they can remain where moved to.
If people realise that free movement will be abolished on 30 March 2019, won’t many of them move while they can?
How many people will leave? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions? Will it be known afterwards as the Brexit exodus?