Theresa May warned ministers they could not delay any longer
Thousands of troops are on standby, ferry space has been reserved for emergency supplies and families will be warned to get ready for a no deal Brexit, Cabinet ruled today.
Theresa May and her ministers decided with just 101 days until exit day it was time to spend billions on contingency plans – despite insisting the PM’s deal remained the ‘most likely scenario’.
Amid claims the public might be alarmed by the dramatic preparations, Mrs May’s spokesman insisted: ‘These are the actions of a sensible Government to ensure people are prepared.’
The scale of the effort was underlined today as it emerged there are 320 projects – including the booking of space on ferries to ensure critical medical supplies can still get into the country.
There are also 3,500 troops on stand-by to intervene anywhere they are needed.
The public will also be urged to prepare themselves and their families, with detailed information on contingency plans set to be published over the coming weeks – including through the Christmas holidays.
TV adverts and social media could be used as Government uses a ‘range of channels’ to get information out to the public.
Millions of businesses have also been told to prepare. HM Revenue & Customs will email 80,000 firms directly while a 100-page ‘Partnership Pack’ will be published to help all companies get themselves ready for turmoil.
Mrs May’s spokesman refused to comment on whether families will be warned about food stock piling or reports Northern Ireland could be left dependent on generators.
NO DEAL DOOMSDAY SCENARIO: BANK OF ENGLAND CHIEF WARNS OF ECONOMIC CATASTROPHE
Bank of England chief Mark Carney has warned the pound would crash, inflation will soar and interest rates would have to rise in the event of a no deal disorderly Brexit.
The Bank Governor said the impact of Brexit would depend entirely on whether there was a deal but said he had a duty to spell out what might happen.
The figures are contained in a ‘worst case scenario’ published by the Bank which suggest that under a chaotic exit from the EU without a deal:
- The size of the economy could plunge by 8 per cent in less than a year – further and faster than the financial crisis of 2008
- At the same time, the unemployment rate would rise 7.5 per cent, meaning hundreds of thousands losing their jobs
- Inflation would surge 6.5 per cent, sending prices in the shops surging House prices could plunge 30 per cent, while commercial property prices are set to fall 48 per cent
- The pound would fall by 25 per cent to less than parity against both the US dollar and the euro
But he faced a backlash from Eurosceptic MPs, who accused him of mobilising ‘Project Hysteria’ in support of Mrs May’s deal.
Despite the dramatic moves today, doubts have been raised about whether it is already too late – with claims that only a third of the money allocated so far has been spent, and shipping space is already fully booked.
At today’s Cabinet ministers stressed the PM’s deal with Brussels remains the Government’s top priority and best no deal mitigation.
However, they said they were determined to prepare for ‘every eventuality’.
‘Cabinet agreed that with just three months until our exit we have reached the point where we need to ramp up those preparations,’ the PM’s spokesman said.
‘We will set in motion the remaining elements of our no deal plans.’
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘The Government’s priority is to secure a deal – that hasn’t changed.
‘But alongside that, as part of our continuation of preparing for no deal, a responsible Government needs to ensure that we are ready for that default option – which we don’t want to happen – but we are ready in the event that it did happen.
‘That’s why at Cabinet today we agreed that preparing for no deal will be an operational priority within Government, but our overall priority remains to secure a deal.’
Mr Barclay said the ‘tempo’ of guidance from Government to businesses and households on how to prepare for a no-deal exit from the EU would increase.
‘We need to get over to business that this is something they have to prepare for’ with ‘a matter of 14 weeks until we leave the European Union’, Steve Barclay said.
Shadow Brexit Minister Jenny Chapman condemned the plans.
She said: ‘It is testament to the Prime Minister’s failure in these negotiations that the Government is now spending billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to prepare for a no deal Brexit that is rejected by Parliament and many of those sat around the Cabinet table.
‘A no deal Brexit would be a disaster for jobs, the economy and the border in Northern Ireland. It is simply not a viable option.’
Defence Secretary reveals 3,500 troops are on standby for no deal Brexit
Extra personnel could be needed at British ports, at the border or even to help police civil disobedience if a no deal Brexit leads to food shortages or other problems
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told MPs today 3,500 troops will be ‘held at readiness’ to help with a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Williamson said the troops could be used by any department as needed – but that no specific requests had yet been made for them.
Extra personnel could be needed at British ports, at the border or even to help police civil disobedience if a no deal Brexit leads to food shortages or other problems.
Downing Street insisted the use of soldiers was common – pointing to how troops helped out successfully in the running of the Olympics.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Williamson said: ‘We’ve as yet not had any formal request from any Government department but what we are doing is putting contingency plans in place, and what we will do is have 3,500 service personnel held at readiness – including regulars and reserves – in order to support any Government department on any contingencies they may need.’
Ministers book space on ferries to ensure critical supplies can get in
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had mooted the Government leasing entire roll-on, roll-off lorry ferries
Reserving space on ferries for critical supplies is among the contingency plans triggered by the Cabinet today.
Downing Street confirmed the proposal was among 320 work streams given a green light today as Britain prepares for the possibility of no deal.
Mrs May’s spokesman said ‘medical supplies’ were among the things that could be brought in if the normal Channel links break down.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had mooted the Government leasing entire roll-on, roll-off lorry ferries.
Families to be given advice on how to prepare for a no deal Brexit
Families will be told to make their own preparations for a no deal Brexit over the coming weeks, Downing Street warned today.
The Government will use a variety of ‘channels’ to get information out to citizens about what might happen and what they should.
Mrs May’s spokesman said the public could look at the 106 notices issued over the summer about what might happen and promised ‘more detailed’ information would be issued over the coming weeks.
Asked if the public should be frightened by the announcements, the spokesman said: ‘Securing a deal remains the Government’s top priority.
‘As a sensible Government it is our duty to make sure we are prepared for all scenarios.’
Up to 10,000 lorries could be parked in Kent if no deal causes delays at the ports
Dover has room for 1,720, Manston Airport near Margate, which has been purchased by the Department for Transport, could fit 4,000 and 4,500 could be parked on the M20 – as happened when ‘Operation Stack’ was triggered in 2015
More than 10,000 lorries could be parked in Kent to cater for queues of trucks heading for France in event of a no-deal Brexit.
First lorries would be parked at Dover, then on Manston Airport and finally the M20.
Dover has room for 1,720, Manston Airport near Margate, which has been purchased by the Department for Transport, could fit 4,000 and 4,500 could be parked on the M20 – as happened when ‘Operation Stack’ was triggered in 2015.
Further contingency plans that emerged in November suggested the 10-mile long M26 could also be pressed into service for overflowing lorries.
Amber Rudd (left) has been calling for MPs to vote on a range of options if Mrs May’s deal falls. Ministers led by Sajid Javid have been clamouring for contingency plans to be stepped up
The move came at a stormy Cabinet session, with brutal clashes between ministers over what to do if Mrs May’s deal fails.
It was the last meeting of the year as Mrs May limps towards a much needed Christmas respite.
What no deal plans are already in place?
Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled £3billion for no deal plans at the Budget in Autumn 2017 – all of which is due to have been spent by exit day.
It has been spent on:
- 300 extra frontline officers for Border Force, plus 1000 staff to tackle border issues
- 1,300 extra staff at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs
- Reforms to the Competitions and Markets Authority to ensure it can also act as the UK State Aid regulator
- Drawing up more than 100 no deal ‘notice’ advising different sectors how to prepare for possible problems, including at the border
- Replacing regulatory agreements currently dependent on the EU with UK versions in areas like nuclear cooperation
Despite overwhelming opposition from Tories, the DUP, Labour, the SNP and Lib Dems, Downing Street still hopes that MPs will come round to her Brexit plan during the break.
But with just 101 days to go before the UK leaves and Parliament deadlocked, the prospect of the UK crashing out is becoming ever more real.
Ministers led by Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock and Andrea Leadsom have been clamouring for contingency plans to be stepped up.
Cabinet was presented with three options this morning – escalating preparations with £2billion more funding, keeping planning at the same level, or dropping the idea of no-deal altogether and hope that Mrs May’s deal is accepted by MPs.
They agreed with the PM that the state of readiness must be ramped up, activating all plans.
They recommended businesses should also ensure they are suitably prepared and activate their no deal plans.
Citizens should also prepare in line with the technical notices issued over the summer and inline with further, more detailed notices that will be issued over the coming weeks.
Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said today that she believes a ‘managed no deal’ Brexit is possible if the PM’s plan cannot get past Parliament
Mr Hammond is said to be frustrated that only a third of the estimated £2.2billion funds previously allocated have been spent so far.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night revealed the scale of the purchases to ensure there are not shortages of essential medicines.
He said the NHS has become the biggest buyer of fridges in the world as no-deal Brexit plans ratchet up
Speaking on the BBC’s Newsnight, Mr Hancock said the Department of Health’s plans were in place with a ‘few exceptions’.
‘I’ve become the largest buyer of fridges in the world, I didn’t expect that,’ he said.
‘Those tenders have been successfully completed are we are a combination of buying and building refrigeration capacity to make sure that we have enough for medicines.’
However, while Mr Hancock said that many of his preparations for the UK crashing out have been ‘successfully completed’, there are questions about other departments.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is embroiled in a row with the Treasury over why ships have not yet been chartered to carry emergency supplies if the biggest UK ports are gridlocked.