Thursday 17 January 2019

3,500 troops on standby as UK ramps up no-deal Brexit plans

Varadkar's own proposals include '45 items' of fast-track legislation

Deal: Theresa May has been accused of ‘psychological warfare’. Photo: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA
Deal: Theresa May has been accused of ‘psychological warfare’. Photo: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The British government has put 3,500 troops on standby to help deal with potential disruption caused by a no-deal Brexit.

With 100 days until Brexit, ministers in Theresa May's government have ramped up preparations for the country leaving the EU without a divorce deal.

Soldiers are on standby while thousands of businesses and millions of households have been warned to get ready for the worst.

The UK cabinet agreed to activate all its no-deal plans and advised the public to prepare for disruptions.

The contingency plans outline how the public will be urged to prepare themselves and their families over the Christmas holidays.

Television advertisement and social media are expected to be used to for public service announcements. Some 3,500 troops will be on standby to help deal with any disruptions, ranging from emergency engineering work to shortage of supplies such as medicines. UK government sources insisted they were not being put in place to deal with public disorder.

Wide-eyed: Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox arrives for the weekly UK cabinet meeting yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Wide-eyed: Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox arrives for the weekly UK cabinet meeting yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Businesses will receive a 100-plus page online package to help them get ready. Emails to 80,000 of the most likely to be affected companies will be sent over the next few days.

"Just because you put a seatbelt on doesn't mean that you should crash the car," Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC that "I've become the largest buyer of fridges in the world" in order to stockpile medicines.

However, opposition politicians said no amount of 'keep calm and carry on' preparation could sugarcoat the impact of a chaotic Brexit.

Mrs May was accused by Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable of "psychological warfare" in a bid to persuade MPs to support her Brexit deal in Parliament this January.

It comes as the Irish Government prepares to publish its own no-deal contingency plans, which include proposals to have dozens of pieces of legislation passed by TDs in just 29 days.

Their plan could see all Dáil business set aside in order to facilitate the passage of legislation to ensure the continued payment of pensions and recognition of cross-border healthcare arrangements.

The Dáil breaks for almost a month today, returning on the same week that the British prime minister intends to finally put her Brexit deal to a vote in Westminster.

However, there is growing concern among Opposition parties here that there will not be enough time to adequately debate the ramifications of a no-deal scenario.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar continues to insist Ireland is ready, but Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin questioned the level of detail made public.

"Is it envisaged we would pass 45 pieces of legislation in 29 days that are sight unseen at this stage?" he asked.

Mr Howlin demanded the Taoiseach provide a "comprehensive briefing" in advance of the recess so that TDs will be in a position to "scrutinise measures that might be necessary" over the holidays.

"I heard the British secretary of state for health say that he had become the biggest purchaser of fridges in the world as they stockpile medicines. That is how absurd things have become.

"We need to know specifically what we must do here to be ready for it and not be inundated by legislation we have not had time to reflect upon when we come back after the recess," Mr Howlin said.

Fianna Fáil's Lisa Chambers demanded a debate, saying all projections for Budget 2019 were based on an assumption that there would be a deal.

Mr Varadkar said there are "45 items" that will need to be dealt with - but they are not all primary legislation that will need Dáil approval.

"Some regulation, some statutory instrument and some primary legislation of it but also the non-legislative aspects of it," he told the Dáil, adding he will ensure a full briefing is provided as soon as possible.

Irish Independent

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