Citizens and entrepreneurs will be protected if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a deal in October, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said on Thursday.
Speaking at Thursday's cabinet meeting, Ratas said the government had prioritized the protection of the rights of Estonia citizens and the interests of their companies.
He said: "The decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union is sad and regrettable and it is difficult to see how any party would gain anything from this. On the other hand, we must all accept the democratic decision of the British people, and be prepared for its consequences."
Ratas and Urmas Reinsalu stressed that the UK leaving without a deal was not in anybody's best interests but that Estonia has to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Both emphasized that the UK would remain an important and "close ally, partner and friend" of Estonia.
Although it is not possible to completely avoid the confusion that comes with a no-deal Brexit, the transition can me made smoother, Reinsalu said and added that all citizens and entrepreneurs with links to the United Kingdom are advised to familiarise themselves with upcoming changes and to take the necessary preparatory steps.
Led by the European Commission, EU member states have been making joint preparations for all possible outcomes, including a no-deal Brexit.
A number of measures have been adopted in the European Union as a whole such as establishing mutual visa freedom, maintaining air connections and road transport, preserving cross-border social security and continuing the studies of the participants of the Erasmus + programme.
In Estonia, relevant legislation has been changed to ensure the rights of citizens; the Traffic Act remains to be amended. The Tax and Customs Board has made preparations for imposing customs.
The cabinet decided to include the item "On Estonia's preparedness for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union without a valid agreement" as an agenda item at the meeting of the government and approved it in its current form.
Information for Estonian citizens and entrepreneurs on changes brought on by Brexit is available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.
Editor: Helen Wright