Families across Britain will be given official advice on preparing for a chaotic no-deal Brexit, Downing Street announced today.
The move came after the Cabinet voted to “ramp up” Whitehall planning for the possibility of an accidental no-deal departure from the European Union.
The Treasury unlocked £2 billion of extra spending on official preparations, taking the total allocated so far to £4 billion. The Government also decided to write to thousands of businesses urging them to invoke no-deal contingency plans as they see appropriate.
“This will be a series of announcements rolled out in coming weeks,” Theresa May’s spokesman said. “It’s important messages are delivered in a clear way where people are able to take in what the advice is.”
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the aim was not to cause concern but get people ready. “This is about government taking sensible actions to ensure Government is prepared, businesses are prepared, citizens are prepared for all eventualities including no deal.”
Today’s meeting marks a decision to begin the “full” implementation of no-deal planning drawn up over the past two years.
Technical notices telling families how to prepare will be issued over coming weeks.
The action was agreed in a meeting in Downing Street lasting nearly three hours, where splits over Brexit were apparent.
Work & Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd made plan she could nto back a deliberate no-deal outcome, telling Cabinet: “Just because you put a seat belt on, it doesn't mean you should crash the car.”
Mr Gauke said: “Managed no-deal is not a viable option. It’s not on offer from the EU and the responsibility of Cabinet Ministers is not to propagate unicorns but to slay them.”
Education Secretary Damian Hinds urged his colleagues to back a plan to stage Commons votes on differnet Brexit options in the hope that a Plan B would be revealed that could command a majority.
The Government will “secure space on ferries” and ships for essential medicines and other “priority supplies” in case border delays cause shortages.
Ministers have taken extensive steps including 126 technical notices and 320 no-deal work streams across departments. “This is a process that will be rolled out in coming days,” the spokesman added.
The latest action was agreed today in a meeting in Downing Street lasting nearly three hours, where ministers were also said to have clashed over Brexit strategy.
Cabinet minister David Gauke rounded on Tories seeking a no-deal Brexit saying the idea was a “unicorn that needs to be slayed”.
The Justice Secretary was thought to be taking aim at colleagues including Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt who are proposing a “managed no-deal” exit, which they think could be achieved by paying about £20 billion to the EU in return for a transition period and agreements to keep flights and transport running.
Twenty five Cabinet ministers spoke in the meeting. Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss called for daily no-deal meetings of the Cobra emergency committee from the New Year onwards. The Cabinet agreed that its “best no-deal mitigation” was to safely deliver the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement with the EU — a deal currently blocked by Tory opposition to the so-called Northern Ireland backstop.
“The Cabinet agreed that delivering the deal agreed with Brussels remains the Government’s top priority and our best no deal mitigation,” Mrs May’s spokesman.
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“However, the Government’s continued duty is to prepare for every eventuality, including no deal.
“So with just over three months to exit we have reached the point where we need to ramp up no deal preparations and that’s what we will now do.”
There are only 101 days until the formal Brexit date of March 29 2019. Among emergency measures, the military may be tasked with taking over some police duties to free up officers to keep order in areas facing traffic chaos.
The Health department is chartering planes to ferry medicines, while the Environment department is urging food companies to stockpile ingredients that could run short. The Transport department has the biggest headache, following warnings that the area around Dover will face chaos as lorries queue for new regulatory checks.
Farmers’ leaders today warned that a no-deal Brexit would be “disastrous” and threaten to hit supplies of seed, animal medicines and workers.
The developments came as ministers were warned that thousands of illegal immigrants will enter Britain from France after a no-deal Brexit.
A Whitehall analysis concluded that desperate migrants will inevitably slip on board food and goods lorries held up at Calais by new checks when Britain leaves the smooth-flowing European Union trade area.
The alert was issued by Michael Gove’s Department for the Environment which is responsible for food imports.
More than 50 business figures have signed a letter calling on Mrs May to back a second referendum to break the deadlock if she cannot persuade MPs to back her Brexit deal when the vote takes place next month.