Details of a Whitehall report outlining a “Doomsday Brexit” have been leaked to the Sunday Times. Some have branded it ‘Project Fear on speed’ but others have said it raises serious concerns.
What does the report say?
Whilst some Brexiteers have been saying “No deal is better than a bad Brexit deal”, officials at the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) disagree, having reportedly drawn up emergency contingency plans. They’ve mapped out three scenarios for leaving the EU in that position on 29 March 2019: mild, severe and “Armageddon”.
A source told that newspaper that in the severe scenario (not even the worst) the port of Dover would collapse on day one, supermarkets in Cornwall and Scotland would run out of food within a couple of days and hospitals would run out of medicine within a fortnight.
The source claims flights would need to be charted and the RAF enlisted to help medevac medicine into Britain for the NHS. The country would also run low on petrol after two weeks.
How seriously should we take the warnings?
The leaked documents are said to have been written for the Inter-Ministerial Group on Preparedness by civil servants at DExEU, the Department of Health and the Department for Transport. Only a few government ministers have seen them and they’re being kept in a safe at DExEU.
The fact these sensitive predictions, which if correct present real-world consequences, have been leaked to a national newspaper means officials must be worried about the progress of Brexit negotiations
Previously, experts have predicted the ‘No Deal’ scenario could cost companies across Britain and the EU £58 billion (€49.5 billion).
What’s been the reaction?
A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union rejected the claims, adding: "A significant amount of work and decision making has gone into our no-deal plans, especially where it relates to ports, and we know that none of this would come to pass."
On Sunday morning Home Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: "I have to say I don't recognise any bit of that at all and as Home Secretary I am deeply involved in 'no deal preparations' as much as I am in getting a deal — I'm confident we will get a deal.
“But I do not recognise any of that report. From the work that I have seen and the analysis that has been done, those outcomes I don't think any of them would come to pass.”
He argued the government is making progress with Brexit saying: “We are going to see good progress. Within government we have been looking at the different trade options, for example, we have been looking at the so-called fall back options and there has been good, robust debate on that.”
"I'm confident that as we get to the June council meeting the Prime Minister will have a good set of proposals and our colleagues in Europe will respond positively."
Backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg told ITV’s Peston on Sunday, “This project fear has been so thoroughly discredited that you would have thought that it would have come to an end by now. We trade successfully all over the world, the delays on goods coming into Southampton are tiny. And we will have control of goods coming into this country, we can set our own laws, our own policies, our own regulations and therefore we will determine how efficient the border is coming into us.”
What are the chances of avoiding the 'worst case' scenario?
To avoid these scenarios entirely the government needs to come up with answers to the Irish border problem, the future customs arrangement and its future immigration policy. There are 17 days until the next European Council summit and without any breakthrough that leaves it until October’s summit to try to solve these issues in a way acceptable to EU leaders and Tory backbenchers.