Foreign Minister Sven Mikser (SDE) briefed the government on Thursday on the ongoing preparations for a possible no-deal exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The government previously expressed regret that the UK House of Commons rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's deal.
According to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) as well as Foreign Minister Sven Mikser, the agreement between the EU and the UK as voted down in the Commons on Tuesday this week is "the best compromise which would ensure the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU."
The deal would have protected the interests of the 27 remaining EU member states, and they see no room for new negotiations on the text of the agreement, a press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thursday morning says.
"We are now waiting for proposals from the United Kingdom on proceeding with the withdrawal. The next steps are up to British Prime Minister Theresa May. We would certainly prefer a withdrawal based on a negotiated agreement. In the meantime, we will continue with the preparations led by the European Commission even if an agreement is not achieved. We are looking to protect the interests of our citizens and enterprises and think the transition should be a smooth as possible," Mr Ratas said.
Mr Mikser stressed that the vote in the British parliament against Ms May's deal has made a so-called hard Brexit, an exit without an agreement between the UK and the EU, more likely.
"In the current deadlock we must be prepared for the exit of the United Kingdom without a deal, which would mean that EU law would no longer apply in the UK, and relations would be regulated by legislation related to third countries," Mr Mikser described the current situation to his colleagues in government on Thursday morning.
According to Mr Mikser, preparations in key areas such as citizens' rights, travel, financial services, transport and customs are being made in cooperation with other EU members, and coordinated by the European Commission.
The latter is willing to propose additional steps if necessary, Mr Mikser said. "Subsequently, draft proposals will be processed with the aim of approving them by 30 March," the minister commented on potential further changes.
In the absence of an agreement, Estonian legislation will have to be changed, above all in the area of citizens' rights, the ministry wrote in its press release. For instance, the Citizen of the European Union Act, the Aliens Act and the Tourism Act will have to be amended in case of a no-deal withdrawal.
The ministries will also have to be ready for other potential disruptions in the areas of citizens' issues, transport and border controls. The authorities will keep Estonia's residents and businesses up to date on the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Tax Board, the press release read.
Mr Mikser pointed out that though the effects on Estonia's economy on the whole of a hard Brexit are expected to be small, businesses with closer ties to the British market should nevertheless prepare as well.
Editor: Dario Cavegn