Amid floundering efforts to bridge remaining differences and ink out a trade deal that would map the post-Brexit relationship between the European Union and the UK, chances of a no-deal scenario have been pronounced as increasingly likely.
Downing Street revealed it has been ratcheting up ‘no deal’ preparations to assure the public that the UK is ready for 2021, whether a trade deal with the European Union is in place by then or not, reported the Daily Mail.
Some £4 bln has been spent on measures to limit disruption to Britain's supply chain and fishing waters, announced Boris Johnson at a Tory fundraising event on Saturday, according to the outlet, adding:
“Everybody is going to have to get ready, whatever the terms of the new arrangements we have with our friends and partners in Europe.”
According to a No 10 spokesman, “flow of critical goods such as vaccines and vital medicines” has been insured through surging freight capacity, adding that “no one needs to worry about our food, medicine or vital supply chains.”
Here are some of the measures:
- Recruitment of over 900 extra border officers stationed in the key Channel port of Dover, supported by seven inland inspection sites to help ensure the country can ‘keep moving’ once the transitional arrangement with Brussels ends. Around 1,100 more are planned to be recruited by March, reinforced by a round-the-clock Border Operations Centre.
- Over 3,000 lorries a week mobilised to deliver essential drugs and medical equipment into the UK. A 27-acre lorry park off the M20 is envisaged in case of tailbacks caused by border checks at Dover. Support phone lines and a hauliers’ app will offer advice for businesses, directing drivers to the closest of the seven new inland border checkpoints, with the 'haulier handbook' on the introduced changes translated into 13 languages. Live exercises have been run to move fresh produce, such as fish from the EU to the UK.
- Royal Navy vessels deployed to deal with potential 'threats of illegal fishing' in UK waters, with the Ministry of Defence confirming that four 80-metre gunboats have been placed on standby. Also, a Fish Export Service will issue ‘validated catch certificates’ and technical support for the industry.
- Christmas leave to be cancelled for senior officials in ‘sensitive’ roles as Whitehall will reportedly 'war-game' No Deal preparations on Wednesday in Operation Capstone, which will also involve the three devolved administrations. The latter is set to simulate worst-case scenarios, such as border disruption, scrambling naval vessels to intercept illegally fishing EU trawlers, and issues involving transfer of data between the UK and the bloc.
- Cabinet ministers are reportedly drawing up a multi-billion-pound bail-out package to help sheep farmers, fishermen, car manufacturers and chemical suppliers, among others potentially set to be the hardest-hit by a no deal scenario, according to The Telegraph.
‘No Deal’ Drills
According to Downing Street, it had practised "every single foreseeable scenario" with ministers responsible for a plethora of issues stemming from a no-deal Brexit.
"These plans work in real life - not just on paper," a government spokesperson said.
The Daily Operations Committee tasked with no-deal preparations, known as XO and chaired by Michael Gove, is believed to have met 200 times.
"We've run live exercises moving fresh produce and fish across the border, and scrambled naval vessels to respond to threats of illegal fishing in our soon-to-be sovereign waters… We've tested our traffic management plans and are confident that we have the tools to mitigate disruption and the queues at the border, which will inevitably occur in the early weeks as traders adjust to the new requirements," a government spokesperson said.