Sunday 25 August 2019

Leaked British government documents warn of 'consumer panic' and collapse in trade


War chest: Sajid Javid has pledged an extra €2.2bn to prepare for no deal. Picture: Reuters
War chest: Sajid Javid has pledged an extra €2.2bn to prepare for no deal. Picture: Reuters
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Cross-border agriculture trade in Northern Ireland will "virtually stop" in the event of no-deal Brexit, according to a leaked UK government document.

The stark document also warns that a no-deal Brexit could trigger "consumer panic", food shortages and an increased security threat in the UK within a fortnight.

The slide, prepared for ministers and obtained by Sky News, says the pound could fall in the first month while Northern Ireland may face law and order challenges.

Within 24 hours, it says cross-border agriculture trade in Northern Ireland "virtually stops" as other trade "slows".

Marked 'official sensitive' and titled 'What this could look like on the ground', it also warns that UK nationals living in the EU may start returning to Britain within a month because they will not meet EU residency rules.

Reacting to the leak, Fianna Fáil's agriculture spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue, said: "The document confirms what we already know regarding what the impact of a hard Brexit would be on the agricultural sector between the North and South.

"I think it's very important that the British government recognises the impact of a no-deal because there has been a serious lack of awareness at senior government levels in the UK. Northern Ireland has been seen as an inconvenience from a Brexiteer agenda and hasn't been given serious consideration to date.

"The two critical factors for us would be the issue of standards for agricultural products and livestock, and also the key issue of tariffs."

The leak came as Boris Johnson's government ramped up its rhetoric over leaving the EU by the October 31 deadline, whether a new deal is brokered or not.

It was revealed as UK Chancellor Sajid Javid announced £2.1bn (€2.2bn) of funding to prepare for no deal.

A second leaked document, this one from the Cabinet Office, warned of a risk of "panic buying" exacerbating food supply disruption as well as a threat of civil disorder.

Sky reported that its leaked slide was prepared in the final weeks of Theresa May's tenure as prime minister.

It is understood the document was shown to ministers but not signed off by the Government, meaning it was not official policy.

But the worst case scenarios - broken down into first day, first fortnight and first month categories - also included potential friction at sea between UK and EU fishing vessels.

In the first fortnight column, it details: "Potential consumer panic and food shortages, even in areas which are not directly affected at the border."

And it warns of a "possible increased risk of serious organised crime including people smuggling and illegal migration".

The first month could also see heightened policing resources becoming "unsustainable", as operational gaps in security "continue to emerge".

A Downing Street spokeswoman saidt: "We do not comment on leaked documents."

Mr Javid announced the funding package, including £1.1bn (€1.2bn) already committed to plans for October 31 and £1bn (€1.1bn) in reserve, saying it is "vital that we intensify our planning" for the Brexit deadline.

Measures include:

:: £344m (€377m) for border and customs operations;

:: £434m (€475m) to ensure vital medicines are available;

:: £108m (€118m) to support businesses;

:: £138m (€51m) for a public information campaign to begin in the "near future".

The funding will pay for 500 more Border Force officers, support for passport processing, improved infrastructure at ports and extra cash for Operation Brock - the plan to cope with traffic chaos in Kent.

Irish Independent

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