Some 3500 British military personnel have been placed on standby as part of no-deal Brexit contingency plans, the UK defence secretary has revealed.
Gavin Williamson said the armed forces personnel including “regulars and reserves” will be “held at readiness” to support an emergency response plan should Britain leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement in March.
Mr Williamson said parliament had not yet received any formal requests for assistance from other government departments in case of a no-deal Brexit crisis.
His comments came after the government said it would implement plans for a no-deal Brexit in full and begin telling businesses and citizens to prepare for the risk of leaving the EU without an agreement.
The Cabinet spent this morning discussing preparations for ‘no deal’ Brexit. I accept that it is prudent for the government to get ready for all eventualities. But I owe my constituents and my colleagues total clarity about my position.
— Nick Boles MP (@NickBoles) December 18, 2018
TV commercials and social media channels will be used by the government to give detailed advice to citizens on how to prepare for a possible emergency situation.
Money will also be allocated from a 2-billion pound ($3.5 billion) contingency fund to various government departments including the Home Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
HM Revenue and Customs, a non-ministerial government department, will disseminate a 100-page pack for all UK businesses on preparing for no-deal, and will send out about 80,000 emails to businesses.
Contingency plans also included setting aside space on ferries in order to ensure a regular flow of medical supplies.
It’s only taken a matter of hours since the Cabinet for Tory MPs to confirm that a ‘no deal’ policy would split the Conservative Party and bring down the Government. Hope @theresa_may understands how awful her attempt to blackmail Parliament looks – and how grotesquely expensive.
— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) December 18, 2018
A spokesperson for Downing Street, prime minister Theresa May’s residence, said in the past the Ministry of Defence played a crucial role in relation to “sensible planning for contingencies”.
“Look back to events in the recent past where the armed forces have performed that function, such as during the Olympics [when private firm G4S failed to provide enough security staff], where they did an excellent job.”
With just over 100 days until Britain is due to leave the bloc, Ms May is yet to win the support of a deeply divided parliament for the deal she struck last month with Brussels to maintain close ties with the EU.
She has said a delayed vote on her deal will take place in mid-January, prompting some MPs to accuse her of trying to force parliament into backing her by running down the clock as the March 29 exit day approaches.
Ms May, who last week survived a confidence vote in her Conservative Party, has warned MPs that the alternatives to her deal are leaving without an agreement or no Brexit.
Her spokesman said while the government’s priority remained leaving with a deal – which was the most likely scenario – it would now implement its no-deal plans “in full”.
“Cabinet agreed … we have now reached the point where we need to ramp up these preparations. This means we will now set in motion the remaining elements of our no-deal plans,” the spokesman said.
The spokesperson said businesses and citizens are being urged to make early preparations “enacting their own no-deal plans as they judge necessary”.
Leader of the pro-EU Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said the government was trying to scare MPs, businesses and the public with “the threat of a no-deal”.
Britain’s economy has slowed since the 2016 Brexit vote and there is no guarantee that businesses and consumers will retain tariff-free access to EU goods after leaving the bloc.