Danish sperm, diseased lungs and red tape: Brexit nightmares revealed
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Danish sperm, diseased lungs and red tape: Brexit nightmares revealed

London: A sudden drought of donor sperm for fertility clinics is a surprise inclusion on a long list of problems the British government has warned may come from a "no deal" Brexit.

Official government research released on Thursday outlines the red tape nightmares if Britain and European Union cannot settle on the terms of their divorce before the end of March.

Businesses as diverse as organic farmers, cigarette manufacturers and fertility clinics will be hit by new time-consuming and costly regulation – and some may face months of delay and loss before they can go back to business as usual after Brexit.

The papers, written by public servants across Whitehall on instruction from the government to prepare for the worst, are replete with unintended consequences of a Brexit deadlock.

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And there is more bad news to come, as Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said the 25 technical notices released on Thursday were just one third of the total due between now and the end of September.

The papers released warn of reams of new paperwork for importers and exporters, who face duplication of UK and EU regulations and the prospect of new tariffs on goods moving to and from the EU. The government has advised them to take on customs service brokers or other freight middlemen to sort out the new requirements.

Cigarettes and sperm are among the goods expected to be affected by a 'no deal' Brexit.

Cigarettes and sperm are among the goods expected to be affected by a 'no deal' Brexit.Credit:Nic Walker

And the government would have to dip into its own pocket to guarantee EU subsidies and grants to researchers, students, farmers and aid organisations – though it has promised to do so for only a few years after Brexit.

Anti Brexit activists protest as they deliver a pile of medical supplies in cardboard boxes to the Department of Health and Social Care in London. They want to get a message to the public about the predicted costs of Britain's "No Deal Hard Brexit".

Anti Brexit activists protest as they deliver a pile of medical supplies in cardboard boxes to the Department of Health and Social Care in London. They want to get a message to the public about the predicted costs of Britain's "No Deal Hard Brexit".Credit:AP

The papers also reveal:

  • Britons travelling to Europe will face higher fees when they use ATMs or credit cards as they lose an EU protection against bank surcharges;
  • British travellers and residents in Europe may lose access to their bank accounts, life insurance and pensions as a result of UK firms losing their right to ‘passport’ financial services into the EU;
  • Organic farmers will be unable to export to the EU until they get new licences – which could take up to nine months;
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  • Cigarette manufacturers selling in the UK will have to find new photos of diseased lungs (among other images) for their plain packaging, because the current pictures are copyrighted to the European Commission;
  • Nuclear power plants will need new import licences for fuel, and will have to apply for new licences if they send nuclear waste to the EU for processing;
  • British fertility clinics will have to apply for new licences to import sperm from the EU to comply with European directives (around 3000 sperm samples were imported from Denmark in 2017);
  • Pharmacists will be advised to stockpile an extra six weeks' worth of medicine; and
  • New medicines and medical devices would have to be doubly licensed – once in the UK and once in Europe.

The papers dodge the tricky issue of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which the government has repeatedly pledged will remain open with no customs checks.

They say only that a no-deal scenario would pose “very significant challenges” that would have to be discussed with Ireland and the EU.

Time is running out to strike a deal, as the Brexit divorce terms need to be finalised within months so they can be ratified by European and British Parliaments before the Brexit cutoff date in March.

British fertility clinics will have to apply for new licenses to import sperm from the EU.

British fertility clinics will have to apply for new licenses to import sperm from the EU.Credit:Craig Abraham

Raab said he was “confident a good deal is within our sights”, though it was sensible to take some steps now to mitigate the risks of no deal.

He said there had been misinformation around the impact of a no-deal Brexit, denying reports the army was on standby to maintain food and medicine supplies.

And he mocked warnings in the press of a “sandwich famine” saying Britons will “still be able to enjoy a BLT after Brexit".

He implied that the EU would share the blame if the worst warnings about a no-deal Brexit were borne out.

Ben Bradshaw, an MP from the People’s Vote campaign seeking another referendum on Brexit, said Britain was in a “shambolic situation” faced with a “false choice between a botched Brexit or a no-deal Brexit”.

“From border delays to extra bureaucracy and red tape, to UK citizens potentially losing access to their pensions, today’s speech by Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab was full of new information about a disastrous 'no deal' Brexit that no-one could have known about at the time of the referendum,” he said.

“This is not what anyone voted for.”

Labour peer Andrew Adonis, spokesperson for anti-Brexit group Best for Britain, said: "Every time a new Brexit paper is published, more people are made worse off.”

Pro-Brexit campaigners such as Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg have described warnings about the consequences as “Project Fear” and said the risks have been “absurdly overstated”.