The army is on standby to help deliver food, medicines and fuels if there are shortages in the wake of a “no deal” Brexit, according to a report.
Plans for the armed forces to help civilian authorities in the event of civil emergencies have been dusted off as part of contingency preparations for Britain leaving the EU without an agreement, the Sunday Times reports.
This would see helicopters and army trucks being used to get supplies to vulnerable people outside the South East who were having difficulties getting the medicines they require, according to the newspaper.
An unnamed minister told the Sunday Times that the military would be drafted in if problems at Britain’s ports caused shortages of food, fuel and medicines.
They said: “There is a lot of civil contingency planning around the prospect of no deal. That’s not frightening the horses, that’s just being utterly realistic.”
A Ministry of Defence source said there had been “no formal request” to supply aid, but acknowledged there is a “blueprint for us supporting the civilian authorities that can be dusted off”.
The newspaper’s report also said there would be a significant impact on the NHS, with the health service moving onto a year-round “winter crisis footing”.
Prime Minister Theresa May – who has repeatedly said no Brexit deal is better than a bad deal – said earlier this week that the British public should feel “reassurance and comfort” over the government’s preparations for a no deal scenario.
Mrs May did not deny stockpiling was taking place, but said Downing Street was being “responsible and sensible” whilst simultaneously trying to strike a good deal with Brussels.
She told 5 News: “Far from being worried about preparations that we are making, I would say that people should take reassurance and comfort from the fact that the government is saying we are in a negotiation, we are working for a good deal – I believe we can get a good deal – but… because we don’t know what the outcome is going to be… let’s prepare for every eventuality.
“This is not just about stockpiling.
“That concept, what it is, is about making sure that we will be able to continue to do the things that are necessary once we have left the European Union, if we leave without a deal.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond echoed the PM’s words, saying it was “sensible and responsible” for the government to be working in conjunction with industry to stockpile certain vital supplies for the event of no deal.
He said: “That’s a sensible and responsible thing for a Government to do and large businesses who are importing or exporting large volumes of products or produce will be making contingency plans, and we would encourage them to do so and work closely with them as they are putting those plans together.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs on Tuesday he had asked officials to “work up options for stockpiling” by the pharmaceutical industry, while Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said the government would be taking steps to make sure there is an “adequate food supply”.
Ministers said last week that the government would be putting out roughly 70 “technical notices” in the coming weeks, which would lay out the necessary preparations in the UK for exiting without a deal.
According to the Sunday Times, these reports will be published all together on one day in late August, rather than throughout the summer, because of fears this would alarm the public.