UK Government under pressure after ‘doomsday’ plans revealed
IT’S the secret plan senior public servants have drawn up that is causing fear and anger in Britain.
The so-called Doomsday scenario has been devised by staff working for the Brexit Secretary David Davis – and it predicts Mad Max-style anarchy if the UK leaves the European Union next year without a deal in place.
Medicine, food and fuel would become scarce within a fortnight according to the worst-case scenario, with a key port in Dover becoming unworkable on the first day of Brexit, leading to severe shortages across the country.
That option is considered at the extreme limit of where Brexit could end, and it has caused considerable alarm among Brits who are already weary over the divorce process from the EU that is growing more complicated by the day.
According to a report in The Sunday Times, chartered aircraft would have to be used to get supplies where they were needed.
“You would have to medivac medicine into Britain, and at the end of week two we would be running out of petrol as well,” the paper quoted a government source.
“In the second scenario, not even the worst, the port of Dover will collapse on day one. The supermarkets in Cornwall and Scotland will run out of food within a couple of days, and hospitals will run out of medicines within two weeks,” the Times reported.
The plans were drawn up for ministers to read at special weekly meetings and were considered so damaging only a small number of Theresa May’s government had seen them. The rest of the time the plans were “locked in a safe”, the source said.
Brexit planners have denied the doomsday scenario would ever happen – at least officially – but conceded the discussions had taken place.
Britain wants to strike a deal on future trade relations with the EU before it officially leaves the bloc on March 29 next year, but officials are also drawing up plans for negotiations ending without an agreement – which is where the doomsday and other scenarios come in.
If it left without a deal it would trade on World Trade Organisation terms.
The unknown factors are how EU countries would respond.
The plans emerged as the Brexit negotiations reach a critical point and with a number of major obstacles blocking the way. Pro-Brexit supporters have accused those who favour staying in the EU of deliberately spreading fear. It also comes at a time Prime Minister May is under massive pressure to secure the best possible deal for Britain.
It won’t be easy – she is not only battling the EU and her counterparts in Europe, but members of her own party are growing restless and a minor party that keeps her in power has begun flexing its muscles.
National newspapers have also called on her to stand aside if she cannot deliver a good Brexit outcome.
One of the main issues complicating Brexit is the differences of opinion over whether a “hard” or “soft” Brexit should be pursued.
A hard exit would see Britain able to sign its own free trade deals – and Australia is one of the countries it is interested in – but a soft exit would see the country form a customs partnership with the EU. One option is where the UK would act on the EU’s behalf when goods arrived in the UK that are intended for the EU. The reverse would happen for goods arriving in the EU destined for the UK.
That would seriously reduce Britain’s ability to strike new trade deals – one of the key factors of Brexit, and it’s not clear even if that is workable.
A second option is known as maximum facilitation and aims to streamline the border process, using technology to remove physical customs checks.
A big sticking point though is some of the systems could take years to implement.
Then there is the problem of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland – the only land border between the EU and the UK.
Both sides want to keep the border open, but it’s unclear how that is practical.
The leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, has warned that her party will withdraw its support for the May Government if Northern Ireland is treated differently from the rest of the UK.
She told Sky News: “For us, our only red line is that we are not treated any different from the rest of the United Kingdom, that there are no trade barriers put up between Northern Ireland and our biggest market which, of course, is Great Britain.”
A further flashpoint in the Brexit process is fast approaching. Cabinet ministers will meet soon to decide which customs option they should seek from the EU, and then Mrs May will meet EU leaders at the end of the month to update them on the plan.
Before she even gets there though, the Prime Minister has to make it through a crucial vote in parliament when the EU Withdrawal Bill returns to the House of Commons.
MPs are expected to vote on the bill next week, and Mrs May will hope that 15 amendments imposed by the unelected upper house will be defeated. If they aren’t, and her government suffers a parliamentary defeat, then her own leadership could be under threat.
As well as leaving the EU customs union and the Irish border question, also at stake is what power parliament has if the government’s exit deal is rejected.
Some commentators are already predicting the day of the vote will be the most dramatic in a generation
And for someone who became Prime Minister as a direct result of Brexit, that truly would be doomsday scenario.