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How will Brexit affect Netflix, zoos, blood donations and number plates?

By Paul Francis

As we edge closer to the Brexit deadline, questions about the potential consequences of departing the EU continue to be asked.

And depending on the terms of any deal, Brexit could have repercussions in less likely ways.

Paul Francis investigates how zoos, museums, car registration plates and sperm donors could all be caught up in the Brexit crossfire.

Sperm donors

Leaving the EU means we will not be covered by EU Organ Directives and EU Tissues and Cells Directives which could lead to a shortage of transplant organs, embryos and even sperm
Leaving the EU means we will not be covered by EU Organ Directives and EU Tissues and Cells Directives which could lead to a shortage of transplant organs, embryos and even sperm

The claim: Brexit will lead to a shortage of sperm donors.

Why: Leaving the EU without a deal would mean we would no longer be covered by EU Organ Directives and EU Tissues and Cells Directives. These cover material from human sperm, eggs and embryos to transplant organs.

According to a government paper, 3,000 sperm samples were imported from Denmark to the UK in the last year and Brexit could hold up those imports.

Fact or fiction? According to the chairman of the British Fertility Society, Dr Jane Stewart, there’s some truth in it but the impact would be minimal. She said: “The UK has its own regulations with respect to importing sperm and those would not change. We already import sperm from elsewhere in the world, particularly the USA. There is no reason that model shouldn’t apply to imports from EU countries, post Brexit.”

Pollution will shut schools

Operation Brock could cause problems for schools
Operation Brock could cause problems for schools

The claim: Schools in Kent could be forced into “lock down” if the levels of air pollution deteriorate.

Why: County education officials circulated a guidance note to schools saying that if Operation Brock was implemented, schools nearer major roads and motorways could suffer from deteriorating air quality caused by traffic gridlock and may have to consider closing.

Fact or fiction? It’s true but education chiefs played down the possibility, saying the word “lockdown” had different meanings, saying: “We are not in any way intimating that a dynamic lockdown would be required that is similar to when an intruder may enter a school site. The term lockdown in relation to air quality really means that schools should perhaps consider limiting external movement around the school site if it is felt it may affect pupils and staff in any way.”

A shortage of gardeners

Who's going to look after our gardens?
Who's going to look after our gardens?

The claim: The UK could face a shortage of ornamental gardeners after Brexit.

Why: While a seasonal workers scheme has been set up to help farmers recruit fruit pickers, the scheme does not cover workers in ornamental horticulture. The issue was flagged up by members of the all-party Gardening and Horticulture Group. They highlighted concerns that 60,000 annual vacancies would not be filled after the UK leaves the EU. In a report, the group said ministers should “expand the Seasonal Workers" pilot to include ornamental horticulture to mitigate a continued fall in the number of EU nationals, and meet the anticipated industry demand for 60,000 seasonal workers and prevent significant supply-chain disruption post-Brexit.”

Fact or fiction? Green-fingered enthusiasts and fans of Capability Brown or Alan Titmarch shouldn’t panic - according to the Home Office: “Our future immigration system will support the UK economy to access the skills it needs after the UK leaves the EU. As part of this, we plan to introduce a temporary short-term workers route to provide labour for a transitional period while our economy adapts.”

Streaming services

Will we miss out on the next season of The Crown?
Will we miss out on the next season of The Crown?

The claim: If you like to listen to music or watch TV when you are abroad, Brexit might make it tricky - access to streaming services like Spotify and Netflix could be blocked.

Why: There is an EU regulation relating to what is called the “portability of online content service.” In a government notice published in September there was a reference to the existing rights to access which suggested that would end under a no deal. It said:“The portability regulation will cease to apply to UK nationals when they travel to the EU.”

Fact or fiction? Watching the box set of Downton Abbey might not be as straightforward. The Department for International Trade said that, in its preparations for Brexit, it was seeking to forge new bilateral deals with the 70 countries which are "identical or substantially the same" as the EU agreements which Britain is giving up.


It won't be as easy to get artefacts for museums from the continent
It won't be as easy to get artefacts for museums from the continent

The claim: You may experience a sense of deja vu when you visit your local museum or art gallery. Brexit could place the exchange of cultural objects between museums and galleries in the UK and EU member states in limbo.

Why: Currently there are no barriers on lending objects of cultural items.

Without a deal, the licensing authorities of each country of export, including those in the EU and European Economic Area, would have to be consulted separately.

Fact or fiction? Alistair Brown, of the Museums Association, says: “These new rules and certification requirements could potentially create additional barriers for museums. It’s frustrating and would probably limit the amount museums would work with their European counterparts in future. It will be especially tricky if loans are already organised – it might prove difficult to get things back or fulfil obligations.”

Blood shortages

Blood donation sessions were cancelled
Blood donation sessions were cancelled

The claim: There could be a shortage of blood as donation clinics are cancelled.

Why: A decision to cancel blood donation clinics in Dover and Folkestone in the weeks running up to March 29 raised fears of a shortage. Six donation sessions were cancelled in Dover and Folkestone because of the potential return of Operation Stack.

Fact or fiction? Fiction. There was an abrupt U-turn on this when the NHS stepped in and over-ruled the cancellations saying they would go ahead as planned.

Car registration plates.

Goodbye EU sticker
Goodbye EU sticker

The claim: Driving abroad? You may have to change your plates if there’s a no-deal Brexit. Why: Many cars have registration plates with both the EU flag and the UK flag. If you do, then you may need to change.

Government guidance on preparing to drive in the EU after Brexit warns number plates displaying both the EU flag and a GB sign will no longer be valid.

Drivers will need to replace the Euro-plate with a number plate displaying the GB plate without the EU flag.

Fact or fiction? Mostly true: Government guidance recommends that you display a GB sticker on the rear of your vehicle, irrespective of whether you currently have a number plate which includes the GB identifier.

Though the prospect of being stopped and fined for not displaying the correct plate seems unlikely.


Barbary Lion may not get to see France
Barbary Lion may not get to see France

The claim: The free movement of animals across Europe could end after Brexit, endangering rare species.

Why: Being outside the EU would leave UK zoos out of EU-wide breeding programmes and forced into protracted negotiations country by country. Currently, zoos work together in cross-border partnerships so they can find mates and draw on a bigger gene pool.

Fact or fiction: According to the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, there’s some truth in this. It has warned that particular species within breeding programmes could all potentially be impacted if zoos are unable to deal on a European basis.

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