How a no-deal Brexit is shaping up, from banks to food supplies

BRUSSELS (BLOOMBERG) – With just six weeks to go until Brexit day, British Prime Minister Theresa May continues to wield the threat of walking away from talks as a negotiating tactic.

Companies are taking it seriously, stockpiling food, drugs and manufacturing parts. Governments are also kicking into action, but what they can – or want – to do is limited.

The most catastrophic effects such as a rupture in the multitrillion-dollar derivatives market or the grounding of planes have probably been avoided.

But bottlenecks that leave food imports rotting in ports remain a real risk, and there’s still a big question mark over what happens to flows of data that are crucial for businesses and governments.

The European Commission is taking measures to protect the bloc, while telling member states not to do anything that would make life too easy for the Brits.

Here’s a look at what a no-deal would mean for key industries:

Finance: The worst averted

The EU and the United Kingdom aren’t really cooperating on no-deal planning except in one major area – finance – where both sides would stand to lose from a big market meltdown.

Cooperation agreements will enable UK and EU regulators to supervise each others’ markets, and there’s a plan in place to avoid a cross-channel rupture in the multitrillion-dollar derivatives industry by ensuring EU banks can continue settling trades at clearinghouses in London.

Another agreement allows mutual funds and hedge funds in the EU to continue to delegate trading to staff in London.

But the financial industry is pressing for further action from policymakers so there are no hiccups in trillions of dollars of another type of derivatives contracts that aren’t settled at clearinghouses – over-the-counter uncleared swaps traded directly between buyers and sellers.

Lobbyists are also calling on the EU to allow British exchanges and trading venues to be used for equities and derivatives transactions before they are then settled at the clearinghouses.

Banks will also have to deal with the fallout of a currency shock in the event of no-deal, as analysts predict sterling could plunge as much as 20 per cent.

Data: Hoping not to get caught

Data now flows freely between the EU and the UK as they both follow the same rules. With a no-deal Brexit, while the UK has said data will still be able to flow, Europe has given no reassurance the same will apply going the other way.

To calm nerves, both the British government and the UK data regulator are advising companies to hunt down all data transfers coming into the UK from Europe, and make sure they have appropriate safeguards in place.

Essentially this means a lot of paperwork, including tasks from signing up to internal code of conducts, to adhering to standardised clauses on transferring data.

All of this is short-term advice, as the UK says it’s aiming for a so-called adequacy agreement with the EU, which would mean data flows can carry on as they did before.

The risk is slim of the EU demanding a halt to data flows to the UK – such an act would be close to declaring war – but the danger of an activist spotting an “illegal” data transfer from one multinational to another is high, and companies will be readying themselves for potential lawsuits.

Security: Spies will be all right

European intelligence-sharing networks won’t change substantially with Brexit, according to the chief of the UK’s foreign spy agency, who downplayed the effect a no-deal departure on security across the continent.

“The relationships between European countries that exist on intelligence and security are not within the competence of the European Union and it does not, even now, therefore cover these relationships,” MI6 head Alex Younger said.

However, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid has warned that that a no-deal Brexit would mean the UK loses access to some pan-European security capabilities.

If no deal is struck, police have warned that cooperation will be slower, more bureaucratic and less effective than it is now thanks to Europol and the European Arrest Warrant.

On Sept 5, the UK issued Europol warrants for two Russian nationals over the attempted murder of a former spy and the use of a Novichok nerve agent on British soil. Under current rules, if the suspects travel within the EU, another member state would automatically arrest them.

Outside of the bloc, that reciprocal arrangement would depend on the UK’s relationship with individual nations.

Food: The fridges are full

Supermarkets and their suppliers are stockpiling food, but all frozen and chilled storage is already being used and there is limited warehousing space left.

They are also attempting to find alternative supply routes, but there are few options and not enough ferries available.

Retailers rely heavily on European supply chains, with one-third of food in the UK coming from the EU. Their main concern is disruption at the crossing between Calais and Dover.

The government has said it would wave in most EU traffic, but that won’t solve delays going the other way.

Airlines: Fairly smooth flying

Following an agreement between the UK and the EU, airlines from both sides should be able to carry on flying unhindered to each other’s territory after March 29. The accord extends to overflights and refueling stops and also extends the validity of safety certification that might otherwise be voided after the split.

British-owned carriers need to take further steps to carry on operating solely within the EU, and vice versa. In order to do that airlines must acquire overseas licenses – with EasyJet Plc setting up in Austria and Ryanair Holdings Plc, which is Irish, securing permission for domestic UK flights.

Meanwhile, the world’s biggest caterer to the aviation industry has begun to amass food and cutlery. Gate Gourmet, which serves 20 airlines at 10 UK airports, is accumulating enough supplies to see it through about 10 days of disruption – including some items that need to be kept cold.

Healthcare: Drugs and Blood

The government is making plans to accumulate drugs and blood products in the event of a no-deal departure. And it’s telling patients not to build their own private stashes at home. Pharmaceutical companies are booking space on planes to avoid delays at ports, and Novo Nordisk, which makes insulin, aims for an 18-week supply.

Manufacturing: Stockpiling parts

For British manufacturers that rely on imported parts, no-deal is a nightmare. Airbus has been laying in parts at its plants in the UK and Germany, enough to cover production for one month.

Jet-engines giant Rolls Royce Holdings has moved the approvals process for its products to a facility in Germany and is storing up components.

The car industry has also been hoarding extensively: Aston Martin has plans to ship car components via air freight to avoid using Dover, while Volkswagen-owned Bentley has been supplying parts through an alternative port for the last eight months. Companies also are prepared to idle factories.

Channel Tunnel: Open, but on EU’s terms

Rail services through the Channel Tunnel that connects Britain to mainland Europe will continue for three months after March 29. The European Commission’s unilateral proposal would apply to all traffic – passengers, cars and freight – and is contingent on the UK side maintaining existing EU safety standards and rules.

The commission said the three-month period would allow the two sides to come up with longer-term solutions.

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Tories unveil cringy Brexit Valentines poem – just as we head for a ‘car crash’

A top Tory joked around with a cringeworthy Valentine’s Day poem today… just as she was accused of driving MPs into a Brexit "car crash".

Andrea Leadsom read out the light-heated rhyme about Britain’s "bright future" with a "good deal" the House of Commons.

But the Commons Leader did it while unveiling Parliament’s business for next week – which experts say is drastically behind schedule.

With 43 days left before Brexit, the Hansard Society says just 422 of 600 expected "Statutory Instruments" have been laid.

They are crucial technical laws that ensure our legal system doesn’t collapse on March 29 if there is No Deal.

One of the ‘SIs’ alone is 600 pages long and weighs several kilogrammes.

Ms Leadsom said around three SIs per day will be debated per day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after MPs were ordered back from their February break.

Others will be pushed through behind the scenes.

But there will be none in the Commons chamber on Thursday – with MPs instead having a "general debate" on trade agreements with the US, New Zealand and Australia that don’t yet exist.

Ms Leadsom joked: " Labour is red. / Tories are blue.

"Our future is bright with a good deal in sight / For the UK and our friends in the EU."

But SNP MP Pete Wishart fumed: "They’re all going to be missing their skiing holidays and villas for this?

"There’s only 43 days before we’re supposed to leave the EU.

"This is getting beyond a joke and this government is taking this House for mugs."

Shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz said: "This is really serious.

"Each week there is chaos. This is an appalling way to govern a country."

And Mr Wishart shot back: "Labour is red / Tories are blue / The message from Scotland is we’re staying in the EU!"

The Best For Britain campaign group, which opposes Brexit, claimed the government will need to lay seven SIs per day to meet its target.

The group claimed 8,262 pages of SIs have been written.

And with the average number of pages per SI in January being 26, over 178 SIs that means there are still 4,628 pages to be written, Best For Britain claimed.

Backer Layla Moran, a Lib Dem MP, said: "We were supposed to be taking back control but we are actually heading towards to a democratic car crash.

"The government is just trying to ride roughshod over scrutiny. No-one, whether you voted leave or remain, voted for this."

Read More

Latest Brexit news

  • May braces for Valentine’s Day defeat 
  • MPs’ full V-Day showdown – explained
  • Labour row as MPs threaten to quit
  • Brexit chief’s ‘delay’ bar chat revealed
  • MPs plotting ambush to block No Deal
  • Northern Ireland backstop explained
  • 21 ways No Deal will hit you
  • What EU citizens must do to stay

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Delaying Brexit would send 'very odd message' to voters, says Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay

The Brexit secretary has distanced the government from suggestions MPs could be faced with a delay to Britain’s EU exit unless they back Theresa May’s deal.

Stephen Barclay told Sky News it would send a “very odd message” to UK voters.

He was responding to a report that Olly Robbins, the prime minister’s chief EU negotiator, was overheard in a Brussels bar saying the bloc would probably grant an extension to Article 50.

This would lengthen the period for the UK to negotiate a withdrawal agreement and delay Britain’s departure from the EU, currently scheduled for 29 March.

Mr Robbins, a top civil servant, was said to have indicated that if MPs did not back a Brexit deal, then the delay would be “a long one”.

“The issue is whether Brussels is clear on the terms of extension. In the end they will probably just give us an extension,” Mr Robbins was quoted as saying.

“Got to make them believe that the week beginning end of March… Extension is possible but if they don’t vote for the deal then the extension is a long one.”

However, when asked about the prospect of delaying Brexit, Mr Barclay told Sky News: “It would be very difficult because you have the European parliamentary elections at the end of May.

“I think it would be a very odd message to say to the British public three years after they voted to leave, they should consider voting for members of the European Parliament.

“I think that would go back on what many people voted for.”

The Brexit secretary, who met EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier alongside Mr Robbins earlier this week, added that the EU would not necessarily agree to an extension.

“What European leaders were clear in saying to me is that they don’t see any merit in extending the uncertainty and merely prolonging that,” he added.

Responding to the ITV report about Mr Robbins’ alleged comments, a government spokesperson said: “MPs voted to trigger Article 50 and have passed legislation stating we will leave on 29 March.

“We want to leave with a deal and we are working hard to deliver that but the factual position – as determined by parliament – is that, either way, we leave on 29 March.”

Mrs May told MPs on Tuesday that she needed “some time” to get changes to the Irish border backstop – the key barrier to the PM getting a deal approved by parliament.

The backstop is an insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland in the event that Britain and the EU cannot agree a free trade deal in time.

Mrs May denied suggestions she was “running down the clock” on Brexit, as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused her of “blackmailing” MPs into supporting a “deeply flawed deal”.

Meanwhile, the PM is facing further Brexit pressure from parliament, with MPs revealing two new plans to try and stop a no-deal divorce.

Mr Corbyn is leading the Labour frontbench bid to force a vote on the EU divorce deal itself or let MPs come up with their own plans to change the course of Brexit.

From the backbenches, Yvette Cooper has teamed up with Labour colleagues and Tory rebels to try to give MPs a separate vote a fortnight before Brexit day on 29 March.

It would force Mrs May to declare whether she will take the UK out of the EU with or without a deal, or delay Brexit.

The bid, which is supported by Conservatives Oliver Letwin, Nick Boles and Dominic Grieve, is a revised amendment following the original’s defeat by 23 votes last month.

Ms Cooper had sought to delay Brexit until the end of 2019 if there was no deal in place by the end of February, but faced defeat at the hands of Labour MPs who worried about the reaction in Leave-voting constituencies.

Her new plan is likely not to be formally put to parliament until the end of February, while Mr Corbyn is expected to table his on Thursday.

MPs will get a chance to vote on Mrs May’s Brexit progress that day, but she has sought to head off a Tory rebellion by telling her backbenchers to “hold our nerve” for another two weeks.

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Hard Brexit would doom future merger of UK, Franco-German fighter projects: Airbus Defence

BERLIN (Reuters) – Britain’s departure from the European Union without a deal would doom the prospects for a Franco-German next-generation fighter jet with a rival project in Britain, the head of Airbus Defence and Space (AIR.PA) told the Handelsblatt German newspaper.

Dirk Hoke told the newspaper he considered it “absolutely imperative” that the EU reach an agreement with Britain on security, defense and space given the closely interwoven ties between Europe and Britain.

“I consider it extremely dangerous to develop a system like FCAS (the Franco-German fighter program) without the British,” he said, noting that potential order quantities would rise if Britain participated, making future aircraft more competitive.

France and Germany this month awarded a 65 million euro ($74 million), two-year contract financed equally by both countries to Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA) and Airbus to start designing a next-generation combat air system for use from 2040.

Hoke said there were discussions about Spain joining the Franco-German program, but the Brexit negotiations would be decisive in determining any cooperation with Britain.

“In Britain’s case, we have to wait to see if there will be a hard Brexit,” he told the newspaper. “That would be fatal for the cooperation.”

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No-deal Brexit plan for Channel Tunnel

Trains will be permitted to use the Channel Tunnel for three months if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, under a proposed European Commission law.

The planned legislation, published on Tuesday, will give the UK and France time to renegotiate the terms under which the railway service operates.

The law must be agreed by the European Parliament and EU member states.

Britain leaving the EU with no deal is the default position on 29 March unless a withdrawal agreement can be approved.

Tuesday’s proposal is aimed at mitigating the “significant impact” that a no-deal Brexit – the UK leaving the EU without any formal Withdrawal Agreement and no transition period – would have on rail transport and connectivity between the EU and the UK, the commission said.

The proposals “are intended to ensure the continuity limited to cross-border operations and services,” it said, warning that “an interruption in these activities would cause significant social and economic problems.”

The legislation states that, given the “exceptional” urgency of the situation, the proposal will not be subject to the normal eight-week consultation period.

The commission also emphasised that the period for renegotiation was “strictly limited” and that the UK must maintain safety standards “identical to EU requirements”.

It will now work to ensure that the legislative measure is agreed and adopted by the European Parliament so that it is ready to come into force by 30 March 2019 if necessary.

In October, the UK said it was seeking bilateral arrangements with France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland to “facilitate the continued smooth functioning of cross-border rail services”.

In recent months the European Council has called for member states to “intensify” preparations for a no-deal outcome.

If this happens, there are a number of laws that need to be passed to ensure continuity in crucial areas.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May says she is currently working to get an improved deal from the EU.

She wants to secure changes to the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement she had previously agreed with the 27 other member states, after it was rejected by the UK parliament.

The UK government has said that leaving the EU with a deal remains its “top priority”.

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Brexit, U.S. Congress, Polar Bears: Your Tuesday Briefing

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Good morning.

The British economy slows as Brexit looms, the U.S. Congress is close to avoiding a shutdown and a mind-clearing look at the northern lights. Here’s the latest:

Europe braces for Brexit as the British economy cools

Britain’s economy expanded just 1.4 percent last year — the slowest pace since 2012 — and actually contracted in December, data showed, amid gnawing fear of crashing out of the E.U. without a deal.

Effects: Cities on the Continent are showing a mixture of opportunism and dread. From Amsterdam to Paris to Frankfurt, officials have been wooing companies from an increasingly tumultuous Britain, yet bracing for Brexit-related chaos at ports.

Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe, could see ruinous bottlenecks in a “no-deal” Brexit, a scenario in which Britain would have to construct a functional border and customs system with the E.U. virtually overnight. That may be impossible, creating uncertainty for the countless businesses dependent on trade.

Looking ahead: British leaders could still conceivably call off Brexit before the March 29 deadline or pass a Brexit plan, or they could opt for another referendum. But jobs and businesses that have already left appear irretrievable.

Tentative deal to avert a U.S. government shutdown

House and Senate negotiators said they had reached an “agreement in principle” on border security to avoid a second partial government shutdown that would begin this weekend.

Details: The deal appears to be a victory for Democrats. It is said to give $1.375 billion for physical barriers at the southwestern border, far less than the $5.7 billion demanded by President Trump. And the number of migrants and undocumented immigrants who can be held in detention would be reduced.

Propects: The House and Senate must still pass the bill, and Mr. Trump would have to sign it. Whether he would do so is unclear, but lawmakers seemed confident.

Dueling rallies: Mr. Trump headed to the border city of El Paso, a Democratic stronghold in Texas, to again champion his wall. Many in the city marched against him. Not far away, Beto O’Rourke, a potential presidential candidate and former Democratic congressman from the city, held a counterrally.

U.S. pressures Iraq to stop buying energy from Iran

The White House is demanding that Iraq end purchases of energy from Iran, as it has been cajoling the E.U., China and others to do — with limited success — after pulling out of the Iran nuclear accord and reapplying sanctions.

Iraq has refused. Perpetually energy-starved and reliant on Iranian natural gas and electricity for much of its needs, the government calls the demand impossible.

Another angle: Last October, in another intervention in Iraq’s affairs, the Trump administration pushed Iraqi officials to sign multibillion-dollar power generation deals with General Electric, an American company, after Siemens, a rival German giant, had been on the verge of landing a $15 billion deal with Baghdad. Iraqi officials ended up signing nonbinding agreements with both companies.

In Iran: A huge state-backed rally commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on Monday, and anti-U.S. sentiment was the order of the day. Our correspondent writes that Iran has come a long way in 40 years, from revolutionary theocracy to something like normality.

Stone Age tombs said to emanate from France

They are called megaliths, and there are about 35,000 such monuments in Europe. The tombs of ancient Europeans, they began to appear thousands of years ago, ranging from single stones to complexes like Stonehenge.

For a century, archaeologists have debated how the knowledge to build them spread.

Analysis: Bettina Schulz Paulsson, a prehistoric archaeologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, says she has traced the first such tombs to northwestern France, about 6,500 years ago. (Stonehenge, by comparison, dates to around 2500 B.C.) The form then spread along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, as well as to England, Ireland and Scandinavia. Other researchers said they found the analysis persuasive.

Here’s what else is happening

Spain: Leaders of the Catalan independence movement will go on trial starting today at the Supreme Court. They face criminal charges including rebellion and violating court orders, and other European countries are watching closely. Here’s what to expect.

U.S. politics: Representative Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, apologized for implying that American support for Israel is fueled by money from a pro-Israel lobbying group. Her comment was swiftly denounced by fellow Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as playing on anti-Semitic tropes.

Bulgaria: The authorities have reopened a criminal investigation into the poisoning in 2015 of a prominent arms dealer. They were prompted by questions about a possible connection with the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal, the former Russian spy poisoned in Britain last year.

Canada: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the subject of an ethics investigation based on allegations that he improperly pressured his former attorney general to call off a criminal case against an engineering company based in Montreal.

Northern lights: The colorful aurora borealis has turned into an international tourist attraction for thousands of camera-toting travelers, supporting remote towns and local businesses from Alaska to Greenland to Scandinavia.

Hungary: Refusing immigrants, Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced one of his biggest plans yet to ameliorate a plummeting population, rising labor shortages and widespread emigration: Any Hungarian woman with four or more children will no longer pay income tax.

#MeToo: At least nine women have accused Óscar Arias Sánchez, a Nobel laureate and former president of Costa Rica, of sexual assault or misconduct. The case is emerging as the most significant of the #MeToo era in Latin America, but also reveals the obstacles women in the region face in acting against powerful men. And our Interpreter columnist examines why the movement has made little headway in curbing abuses by ordinary men.

2020 campaign: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is the latest Democratic candidate to enter the presidential race, joining four other women in Congress including Senator Kamala Harris. Research shows they can expect to face a minefield of sexist attitudes and double standards.

Thailand: After an unusual lobbying effort by diplomats and prominent sports figures, prosecutors dropped an extradition case against a soccer player from Bahrain, Hakeem al-Araibi, who said he would be tortured if he were returned. He is now back in Australia, where he has refugee status.

In memoriam: Tomi Ungerer, a French illustrator and author who was a major influence on children’s books and ventured into advertising, protest art and erotica, died at 87.

Polar bears: A 2,000-person military settlement deep in the Russian Arctic declared a state of emergency as dozens of polar bears came ashore and attacked people, broke into homes, menaced schools and gorged at a local dump.

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Back Story

Born on this day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln had a mythic impact far beyond the U.S.

With his craggy face, his eloquence about democracy, his freeing of the slaves and his martyr’s death as U.S. president, he has been embraced by fledgling republics, antislavery societies worldwide and countries trying to recover from civil war.

His famous definition of democracy — “government of the people, by the people, for the people” — was invoked in the first Czechoslovak Republic after World War I, in Hungary in 1956, in Tehran in 1979, and at Tiananmen Square in China in 1989.

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a volunteer effort to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War in the mid-1930s, was the first racially integrated U.S. military force.

After World War II, he was an inspiration for many decolonization movements in Africa and Asia. Jawaharlal Nehru, considered the architect of modern India, even owned a bronze cast of Lincoln’s right hand. (For more, listen to a historian discuss Lincoln’s international impact.)

Steven Erlanger, The Times’s chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe, wrote today’s Back Story.

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U.K. Economy Falters as Brexit Looms. Amsterdam Sees Risks, and Opportunity.

AMSTERDAM — If anyone in the Netherlands is happy about Britain jilting the European Union, they keep that sentiment to themselves. The country has been built on trade, with huge volumes of goods flowing from its ports across the English Channel. Brexit, as the divorce is known, has proved disruptive.

But if Brexit is going to happen, the graceful, canal-lined city of Amsterdam is intent on exploiting what opportunities present themselves. The deputy mayor has been leading a team that is courting global companies abandoning Britain.

“I’m very sad about Brexit, but I’m happy about how things are going for Amsterdam,” said the deputy mayor, Udo Kock, adding that at least 30 companies had already chosen to relocate. “It is such a nice city to live in. Who wouldn’t want to live in Amsterdam for a few years?”

As Britain slides toward a tumultuous exit from the European bloc, cities on the Continent are looking on with a mixture of opportunism and dread. From Amsterdam to Paris to Frankfurt, officials have been wooing companies seeking refuge from an increasingly uncertain United Kingdom. Yet many are bracing for Brexit-related chaos at ports.

Communities on both sides of the channel are already contending with economic weakness as the prospect of a no-deal Brexit discourages investment. Britain’s economy expanded just 1.4 percent last year — the slowest pace since 2012 — and actually contracted in December, according to data released on Monday.

Above all, a sense of resignation has taken hold that even before Brexit begins, it has delivered changes that are almost certainly permanent. Companies have moved jobs from Britain to the Continent while applying for local licenses to prevent ruptures to their businesses. The European Medicines Agency, which regulates pharmaceuticals, is in the final stages of closing its London headquarters and moving to Amsterdam. Bankers and traders have shifted parts of their operations.

Whatever happens next, none of that is going back.

[Where Europe would be hurt most by a no-deal Brexit.]

Amsterdam has largely struck out in attracting global banks, most of which have picked cities where they already have offices, especially Frankfurt. Bankers have taken umbrage at Dutch laws that limit the size of bonus payments.

But the city has landed other elements of the financial industry, including asset managers and traders. Last month, Japan’s Norinchukin Bank selected Amsterdam as the site of its European branch. A trading platform for Bloomberg and Turquoise, a unit of the London Stock Exchange, both picked Amsterdam.

“We had about 100 institutions that came to see us,” said Gerben Everts, a member of the executive board at the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets, which regulates financial services companies. “At least 30” had submitted applications for licenses to operate in the Netherlands, he added.

Ever since the June 2016 referendum that set Brexit in motion, the Netherlands has looked on with alarm. Britain is its third-largest trading partner, after Germany and Belgium. The port at Rotterdam is the largest in Europe. Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is a major corridor for air cargo, and a crucial transit point for the Dutch flower industry.

Throw a wrench into any of that and large numbers of people are going to wind up poorer.

Mr. Kock, Amsterdam’s deputy mayor, is an economist by trade who once worked for the International Monetary Fund. The economy of Amsterdam’s metropolitan area is about 160 billion euros, about $181 billion, a year, he said. Brexit appears likely to shave about €1 billion off that total.

“That’s two or three thousand jobs,” he said.

In pursuit of compensation, the city’s economic affairs agency has been trying to attract new jobs.

Landing the European Medicines Agency was significant. The regulator employs 900 people. It is building an office tower that will be its new headquarters on the southern reaches of Amsterdam, across a highway from a futuristic hotel designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

With the regulator shifting here, Mr. Kock and his team have focused on attracting companies within its orbit, including drugmakers, law firms and insurance companies that serve the pharmaceutical industry.

The group conducts tours of Amsterdam, talking up the city’s attributes: swift internet links; a creative work force; an easily accessible airport with more than 300 direct connections to points around the globe.

“We have taken a very Dutch approach — modest, but solid and persuasive,” Mr. Kock said. “We didn’t go around London like vultures seeking companies, or lavish them in the palace with seven-course dinners. We offer them coffee with a cookie.”

Is that a dig at Paris, where officials have deployed French culinary prowess toward luring investment banking jobs? Mr. Kock grins mischievously.

Bringing the medicine regulator has already helped one industry: the relocation business.

Ten years ago, Roz Fremder moved to Amsterdam from Boston with her husband, who had taken a job in the chemical industry. She started her own company, Expat Help, which guides newly arriving families as they look for housing, schools and health providers. Early last year, the company secured its largest contract, a deal to help workers with the medicines agency relocate from London.

On a recent afternoon, Ms. Fremder walked the eerily devoid corridors of the medicines agency’s former headquarters in the Canary Wharf section of London. About 120 employees had already moved to the Netherlands. Another 530 were set to complete the trip in 2019, with many of them working from home in the interim. The building will be closed at the end of February.

Inside, Ms. Fremder’s team ran a help center for relocating employees. The walls were decorated with drawings of Dutch clogs, windmills and tulips along with a color map of the Netherlands.

“There’s so many things people haven’t thought of when you get down to these last days,” Ms. Fremder said. “Like whether their Netflix and Spotify accounts will work when they get there. Whether their appliances will work. I had one lady send me a photo of her phone jack.”

Expat Help has doubled in size, to 20 employees from 10. It is about to open a London office in the Shoreditch neighborhood to serve other companies moving to Amsterdam.

Which makes Ms. Fremder a clear beneficiary of Brexit. “It has been an opportunity for us,” she said.

Political leaders in Britain could still conceivably call off Brexit before the March 29 deadline, or they could perhaps opt for another referendum. Even then, the movements across the channel appear irreversible.

“What I hear from the institutions that opted for a license,” Mr. Everts of the Dutch financial regulator, said, is “‘irrespective of how hard the Brexit would be, we are going to move anyway because there’s no way back. We have changed our I.T. We have hired or bought offices here. We have our people.’ They need to have the certainty that this is going to start.”

Elmer de Bruin spends much of his day taking phone calls from businesspeople anxious about Brexit. He is the head of international affairs for the Dutch Association for Transport and Logistics, a trade association that represents 5,200 companies. Many of them transport Dutch wares — from garden plants to machinery — across the English Channel.

Mr. de Bruin dispenses a standard tool kit of advice. Companies should apply for permits that allow them to ship goods from the Netherlands to Britain after Brexit. Now, shipments proceed without bureaucratic hindrance, because both countries are members of the European single market. After Brexit, Britain will become a foreign country separated by a border.

But Mr. de Bruin acknowledged that options were limited, because no one knows what is about to happen.

In London, Parliament has rejected an unpopular deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May that would separate Britain from the bloc but leave it subject to European rules as a way of avoiding a hard border across Ireland. Lawmakers have failed to muster a majority for a version of Brexit that can win favor in Brussels.

That Britain will crash out of Europe absent a deal, unleashing chaos on world markets, is an increasingly imaginable possibility.

“We say prepare for the worst and hope for the best, but we don’t know what the worst is,” Mr. de Bruin lamented. “It’s out of our reach.”

He assumes that the Dutch authorities will do what they can to avoid hindering trade, including coordinating customs and immigration checks.

“Our worry is the other side,” he said. “They don’t have the infrastructure and the technology. They will never be able to cope with the enormous flow.”

At the English port of Dover, 10,000 trucks proceed every day without fuss bearing cargo between Britain and Europe. Another 500 trucks pass through Dover from countries outside the European bloc. They sit there for as long as a half-hour, submitting to inspections and customs procedures.

Brexit could turn much of the fast lane into a profit-killing purgatory. Cargo like fresh meat and fish would be vulnerable to spoiling.

“It’s really going to hit us,” said Paul Smit, a sales manager at Windhorst, a trucking company. “All the Dutch people are extremely worried.”

His company hauls garden plants and trees from Dutch nurseries, with 70 percent of the cargo bound for Britain via ferry. With 100 trucks in its fleet, the company has delayed plans to buy 20 or 30 more, given worries over Brexit.

Reimposing customs checks after a quarter-century of unimpeded trade will eliminate flexibility, Mr. Smit complained. Now, Windhorst loads as many trees as can fit into a trailer. Once a customs regimen is in place, it will need to enumerate precisely what it plans to carry — say, 300 fir trees — and then cease loading even if more space remains.

“I’m getting so fed up with this Brexit.” Mr. Smit said. “You’re not doing anything else other than talking about this.”

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Brexit ‘naked economist’ leaves BBC host stunned by stripping off live on air

A Brexit ‘naked economist’ left BBC Radio 4’s best-known host stunned after stripping off live on air.

Cambridge academic Victoria Bateman shed her clothes to reveal the word ‘ Brexit leaves Britain naked’ across her chest on the Today programme.

She even challenged Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg to a naked debate – leaving 75-year-old host John Humphrys perplexed.

"Yes, and you are now naked," he said. "Why do you feel the need to take your clothes off? Isn’t it just exhibitionism?"

Mr Humphrys repeatedly questioned the economics fellow – whose naked Brexit talk (Warning: nudity in link) went viral this week – on why she couldn’t make her point with her clothes on.

But she said it showed leaving the EU is like the "emperor’s new clothes".

And Twitter users criticised Mr Humphrys’ line of questioning. One said: "His persistence in mocking and interrupting her is offending, outrageous that this type of men are being paid with tax payers money."

It comes after Dr Bateman clashed with Piers Morgan over her style which the ITV host claimed would "turn him into a Brexiteer".

She told the BBC: "I have myself written thousands of words looking at why Brexit is bad for Britain.

"But I thought it would be useful to reduce all of those words down, condense all of those words down to one powerful message.

"Brexit is the emperor’s new clothes – Britain has sold itself a project that cannot possibly deliver on what it promised."

She added: "I invite Jacob Rees-Mogg to do a naked debate with me and we will get to the roots of this issue.

"Britain faces many, many problems right now from housing to the NHS, and the European Union is not the cause of those problems."

Asked if she is simply an "exhibitionist", Dr Bateman said: "I am completely comfortable with my own body, I view women’s bodies as one of the big battlegrounds that we face today.

"And actually by engaging with society about women’s bodies, one of the things it shows is the way in which people are quick to judge women purely based on their bodies.

"For thousands of years men have controlled what women can do with their bodies, and women’s bodies have been seen as something purely existing for sex and for babies.

"So what is wrong with a modern day woman taking control of her body and using it to give voice to what is the most depressing political subject in Britain right now?"

After the interview co-presenter Nick Robinson joked: "My computer screen was strategically placed so I have only been listening to what was being said."

Just 49 days left to Brexit.

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Commentary: No, Brexit Britain doesn’t want its empire back

Britain is moving towards an exit from the European Union on March 29, possibly with no agreement, and thus courting – according to the Bank of England – an 8 percent drop in GDP and a 7.5 percent rise in unemployment. A drear prospect, attended by matching drear commentaries on the stupidity of the 52 percent of the British electorate who voted for Brexit in 2016.

Some observers have seen the vote as evidence that imperial urges still dominate. In March 2017 Washington Post foreign affairs reporter Ishaan Tharoor wrote of Brits “harboring delusions of empire (while)…the fantasy of Britain’s past collides almost farcically against Britain’s present.” As this year began, he returned to the imperial theme, solemnly warning that, for Brits “the old colonial hubris” is omnipresent, but “along with imperial nostalgia comes a fair amount of delusion.” 

It’s one of the most common fantasies presently peddled about the mindset of the UK – that it is mired, hopelessly, in a mourning of greatness gone, and a dream to regain it. The British journalist Paul Mason writes of “the self-deluded narrative that has guided the whole Brexit strategy: the idea that ‘our’ former colonies will want to form a new, white, English-speaking trading area – nicknamed Empire 2.0 – to replace the EU.” The Irish writer Fintan O’Toole, believes that the English think that if “England is not an imperial power, it must be the only other thing it can be: a colony,” seeing himself, with nostalgic shivers, threatened once more by a resurgent Germany.

Yet no body of opinion, no organization, no individual capable of thought wants an empire. Government ministers, charged with carrying out the will of the electorate, talk up – probably over-optimistically – the chances of a network of trade agreements, many with former colonies such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States itself. One of the biggest boosters is UK Business Secretary Greg Clark, who invokes “fantastic opportunities for the future” for “a country that is superbly well-positioned in most of the big transformations that are taking place across the world today.” He’s routinely mocked as a fantasist, but he’s doing what any politician who believes in a course of action does – he’s talking it up. His rhetoric isn’t a sign that he believes Britannia can again rule the waves, or the continents.

The charge of imperial nostalgia which Brexiteers are supposed to nurse is often accompanied by grim reports of a country tearing itself apart. The Spectator commentator Stephen Daisley laments that “the House of Commons, once respected around the world as the gold standard of political debate, has become a source of national embarrassment, a symbol of a fractious and directionless nation.”

Parliament, to be sure, has been in several uproars this past week – both inside the chamber, where the Speaker was accused of abusing his neutrality by breaking a rule to favor those who want to remain in the EU, and outside, where a mob of largely young, male pro-Brexiteers screamed “Nazi!” and “Fascist” at Remainers.

This is what is called democracy and political debate – if not the gold standard, certainly an upsetting, but always vivid, exchange of views. Journalism, which lamented the blandness of politics, now has its wish for passion – and appears to hate it. These deeply consequential arguments, in both the UK and the U.S., appear to have remained – just about – within a non-violent frame. They have not in France, where at least nine have died as protests spread across the country. This is not bloody revolution – the violence, frightening as it is, has been largely confined to buildings and cars. Rather, what comes to the surface are elemental issues of politics: unemployment, inequality, marginalization, fear of the future. These are issues which authoritarian states suppress with beatings, shootings and incarceration (see Venezuela for a hideous example). In democracies they must be heard and seen.

Brexit is not likely to have been a trigger for a wave of racism and extreme nationalism sweeping over the UK. It’s a popular, though not a universal, trope with radicals in the universities. – as, for example, David Gillborn of Birmingham University, who believes that the Leave campaign was “comparable to Nazi propaganda and just straightforwardly racist.” The UN special rapporteur on racism and xenophobia, Tendayi Achiume, did a 12-day tour of the UK and concluded that the pre- and post-Brexit environment has made “racial and ethnic minorities more vulnerable to racial discrimination and intolerance.”

A detailed report by the Civitas think tank made shortly after the 2016 referendum, however, cast some doubt on that. Acknowledging that there had been an apparent rise in harassment, the report noted a climate where many crimes were assumed as hate or Brexit-linked, “even when there is no evidence to suggest that they are.”

Tensions and racism are not absent in a country where the (Labour) mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is the son of a Pakistani immigrant family, as is the (Conservative) Home Secretary Sajid Javid; where every manager of the top five Premier League football teams is non-British, as are between a third and half of the players; where all political parties of any size condemn racism and seek to attract citizens of color as members; where the white British are a minority in London and will be a minority in Birmingham by the next census in 2021. But they did not define British society before Brexit, and do not now.

The UK presently undergoes a wrenching convulsion which is likely to make it, at least for a while, poorer than it might otherwise have been. It is doing so because of a vote of its citizens. The imperative is to recognize that large, democratic fact, and – as the now famed British government 1939 poster addressed to a population fearful of an air bombardment: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

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Climate Change, Brexit, Virginia: Your Thursday Briefing

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Good morning.

NASA measured an exceptionally hot 2018 for the planet, Britain has gone pleading to Brussels, and Democrats moved to investigate President Trump. Here’s the latest:

Last year was the fourth hottest on record

NASA scientists announced that Earth’s average surface temperature for 2018 was more than one degree Celsius above the average of the late 19th century, when humans started pumping large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That puts the year among the hottest in nearly 140 years of record keeping.

The trend is unmistakable. The last five years have been the five warmest on record.

“We’re no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future,” said the director of the group that conducted the analysis. “It’s here. It’s now.”

Analysis: What sets the warming apart from long climatic fluctuations of the geologic past is its relative suddenness and its clear correlation with increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activity.

Interactive: You can see how your city’s temperatures stacked up in 2018.

A reminder: To avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change, scientists have said that global temperatures must not rise by more than two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

Even an increase of 1.5 degrees will be dire, a U.N. report has found. But despite a global climate compact, it appears likely that Earth’s temperatures will ascend beyond the two-degree threshold.

Theresa May arrives in Brussels on a wing and a prayer

Britain’s prime minister will sit down with senior E.U. officials in Brussels and try to persuade them to do what they say they will not: renegotiate Brexit.

Even before she boarded the plane, things did not augur well. Outraging some in Britain, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said there was a “special place in hell” for those who promoted leaving the bloc without offering a plan on how to do so.

The day ahead: Mrs. May will meet senior figures like Mr. Tusk and seek help in salvaging the plan that she negotiated with the E.U., but which Britain’s Parliament resoundingly defeated last month.

Under pressure from hard-liners, Mrs. May wants to alter the so-called Irish backstop. But E.U. officials have expressed little interest in her ideas for amending it, and an analyst predicted that the talks would be “wheel-spinning.”

House Democrats vow oversight of Trump

A day after President Trump denounced “ridiculous partisan investigations” in his State of the Union speech, Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that the House Democrats wouldn’t back down from holding his administration accountable.

“It’s our congressional responsibility, and if we didn’t do it, we would be delinquent in that,” she said. Fellow Democrats immediately pushed ahead with several inquiries, including one focused on Mr. Trump’s tax returns.

Analysis: His speech depicted socialism as a menace, alluding to both Venezuela and Democrats — a trope that could become a rhetorical touchstone in his 2020 campaign.

Go deeper: Democrats’ resurgence was on full display during the address, our chief Washington correspondent writes. And the internet saw a clapback, above.

Exodus from the last ISIS village in Syria

In the last two weeks, thousands of people — many severely injured — have been streaming out of the Syrian village of Baghuz, the last dot of land under Islamic State control in Iraq and Syria.

The Islamic State, which once ruled a dominion the size of Britain, is sequestered to an area about the size of Central Park. But collapse has not meant the group’s end. It still has thousands of fighters in the region and flourishing offshoots overseas, including in the Philippines and Nigeria.

On the ground: Islamic State fighters in Baghuz are surrounded, and even veteran militants are giving up. Families of militants say they have been reduced to eating a weed that grows in highway medians. American officials said that a request by the Islamic State for safe passage out of the village was still on the table.

Looking ahead: In a speech to international diplomats, Mr. Trump said he expected to announce soon that the U.S. and its partners will have reclaimed all of the Islamic State’s territory in Syria.

Here’s what else is happening

Siemens: The E.U. antitrust authorities blocked the German company’s plans to merge its train unit with Alstom of France. The deal had been pitched as a counterbalance to China’s entry into the European market.

Russia: In response to the Trump administration’s scrapping a Cold War-era arms control treaty, President Vladimir Putin warned that his country was working on developing new “hypersonic” missiles that could travel more than five times the speed of sound. Some experts see a bluff.

NATO: The country now known as North Macedonia was formally invited to become NATO’s 30th member, an accession that could be complete by year’s end.

U.S. politics: The attorney general of Virginia, the state’s third-highest official, acknowledged that he had worn blackface at a party as an undergraduate student, an admission that followed the disclosure of a racist photograph on the yearbook page of Gov. Ralph Northam. The crisis for the state’s Democratic Party extended to the second-highest state official, the lieutenant governor, whom a woman has accused of sexual assault.

Afghanistan: After two days of talks in Moscow, the Taliban and prominent Afghan politicians said they had charted a course for ending the country’s war, which is in its 18th year. But the Afghan government was not represented in the talks, which may limit their effectiveness.

Greece: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was welcomed to a renowned Orthodox seminary near Istanbul that Turkey forced to close 48 years ago, a visit that raised hopes for a broader thaw between the usually antagonistic Greece and Turkey.

21 Savage: As Immigration and Customs Enforcement moved to deport the detained rapper from the U.S. — a country to which his lawyer said he was brought at 7 — the internet homed in on his status as a native of Britain.

Britain: A judge ordered suspended sentences and community service for a group known as the Stansted 15, who were charged last year after breaking into Stansted Airport, north of London, to ground a flight deporting migrants.

Real doctor, or fake? Matteo Politi, going under the name Matthew Mode, posted videos of himself appearing to be a high-rolling plastic surgeon in Romania. Now he is under arrest there amid accusations that he is not a real doctor.

Did a seal eat your thumb drive? A biologist in New Zealand discovered a USB drive in the feces of a leopard seal and is trying to find the owner of the vacation photos and videos on the memory stick.

Smarter Living

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

Recipe of the day: Treat yourself to a homemade bistro dinner with blue-cheese hanger steak and endive-herb salad.

Pillows, throws, trays and bowls make a more inviting living room.

Strenuous exercise may protect our heart from some of the problems it helps cause.

Back Story

A recent letter to the editor took The Times to task for not running enough letters from women. We asked one of the letters editors, Sue Mermelstein, to explain how The Times responded.

The fact that our letters page skews male is something we’ve struggled with. A letter from Kimberly Probolus gave us a perfect opportunity to address it. When we published it, we also urged more women to write, and committed to work toward parity.

We’ve already seen an uptick in correspondence from women that has been thoughtful and telling. “It has never occurred to me that someone would want to hear my voice,” one said.

Women and men alike expressed concern that we might begin selecting letters on the basis of gender rather than merit. We won’t, but we are inviting letters from a broader range of readers, via newsletters like this one, the Reader Center and The Times’s social media.

This weekend we plan to publish readers’ thoughts on why women are underrepresented in opinion pages.

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