Downing Street today denied it was preparing to use the Army in a no deal Brexit as ministers were slammed for failing to prepare for failure in the EU talks.
Theresa May’s official spokesman insisted there were ‘no plans’ to deploy troops after reports claimed contingency plans had been drawn up to have soldiers distribute food and medicine if the UK’s ports collapse into chaos.
Brexiteers have reacted furiously to escalating claims of what might happen to Britain if negotiations with Brussels fail ahead of exit day on March 29, 2019.
As well as claims they would use troops, ministers have been forced to insist there will be ‘adequate’ food supplies while the NHS has made plans to stockpile medicines.
A collapse into no deal would see Britain going straight to World Trade Organisation rules on trade – meaning thousands of shipments in and out of Britain every day would need to be checked by customs controls instead of waved through under EU rules.
Eurosceptic ringleader Jacob Rees-Mogg last night derided ‘fretful, weak and incompetent’ ministers for failing to put in place no deal contingency plans without frightening voters.
Downing Street today denied Theresa May (pictured on holiday in Italy yesterday) was preparing to use the Army in a no deal Brexit as ministers were slammed for failing to prepare for failure in the EU talks
The Government is due to publish around 70 notices on how different sectors should prepare for a no deal Brexit in August and September.
Mrs May’s spokesman today said: ‘It is about making sensible preparations so in the event of a no deal scenario, this would be implemented in an orderly way.
‘We have been clear that it is in the interests of not just ourselves to get a good deal. In the event of no-deal there will of course be consequences for the European Union.
‘There are no plans to involve the Army in this.’
The Prime Minister is on holiday in the Italian Lakes, leaving her de facto deputy David Lidington as the senior Government figure in the UK.
Downing Street defended ministers taking holidays despite the tense state of the Brexit talks, saying: ‘The Prime Minister and other ministers are always fully engaged with their briefs.
Prominent Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg has said the Government appears to be trying to frighten voters into accepting further compromises on Brexit
Mr Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of Tory MPs, said ministers were using scare tactics to bolster support for the Prime Minister’s Chequers deal.
‘The PM has said for a long time that no deal is better than a bad deal,’ he added. ‘If the Government cannot now show that it can deliver a workable deal based on WTO terms then it is not competent.
‘It is not a good look for the Government to appear fretful, weak and incompetent, but this seems to be the way it is approaching the idea of leaving on WTO terms.’
On the use of the Army, one minister told the Sunday Times that this was common in civil contingency planning, adding: ‘That’s not frightening the horses, it’s just being utterly realistic.’
But a source familiar with no deal planning at the Department for Exiting the EU said there had never been any discussion about calling in troops, suggesting the briefings came from standard civil contingency plans drawn up over many years by the Cabinet Office.
Ministers had planned to release a series of low-key technical notes over the summer setting out preparations for the possibility the UK could leave the EU without a deal in March next year.
He also claims ministers are using scare tactics to bolster support for the Prime Minister’s Chequers deal (former cabinet pictured during negotiations at Buckinghamshire retreat)
But Government sources last night said the documents were likely to be released together in late August.
Steve Baker, who resigned as a Brexit minister over the Chequers plan, said there appeared to be a deliberate attempt to undermine public confidence in the credibility of a no deal departure.
Mr Baker said last night: ‘I am deeply concerned by the Government’s communications strategy around no deal.
Labour’s Frank Field hit by Left’s no confidence vote over Brexit
Labour MP Frank Field remains defiant after Left-wing activists in his constituency passed a vote of no confidence in him for siding with the Government over Brexit.
The Eurosceptic former minister was censured by Birkenhead constituency Labour Party at the weekend after he helped prevent a Government defeat over the customs union this month.
The far-Left Momentum group has called for the deselection of Mr Field and three other Labour MPs.
But Mr Field, speaking after the vote of no confidence, insisted he had acted on behalf of ‘millions of Labour voters – mainly in parts of the country that have long been neglected by the elites – who gave politicians a clear instruction to take the country out of the EU’.
Mr Field’s constituency on the Wirral voted in favour of Leave.
The vote of no confidence carries no formal weight but could pave the way for deselection.
Fellow Labour Brexiteer Kate Hoey has vowed to fight on after a similar vote of no confidence from activists at her local party in Vauxhall.
Eurosceptics John Mann and Graham Stringer also face potential censure after Momentum’s national co-ordinator Laura Parker said there was ‘no room for Labour MPs who side with the reactionary Tory establishment’.
Mr Field said during his 39 years as an MP he had ‘always voted to free our country from the tightening stranglehold of the EU’ – adding that he had done so for most of that period ‘alongside Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’.
‘As I said to the PM I wanted to see the credibility and feasibility of our plans reinforced to the public in order to give reassurance.
‘Instead we seem to be seeing long-standing civil contingencies plans being trotted out in the run-up to dumping out a string of technical notices on a single day, shortly before MPs return to Westminster.
‘This doesn’t seem to me a sincere way to make the unwanted scenario of a no deal exit a credible and feasible proposition.’
Mrs May’s chief Brexit adviser Oliver Robbins, the architect of the Chequers plan, is also accused of trying to kill off the option of leaving without a deal.
Reports claimed that he has refused to highlight the substantial impact a no deal Brexit would have on EU economies during discussions with Brussels, despite a Government assessment finding the overall cost to the EU would be ‘far greater’ than that to the UK.
‘Robbins simply refused to raise it,’ a source said.
One insider told the Daily Mail that the Department for Exiting the EU had drawn up plans for an advertising campaign on the continent highlighting the dangers of a no deal Brexit for key sectors of the European economy such as farming and cars – only to have the idea blocked.
Government sources last night denied there was a deliberate attempt to scare voters into accepting the Chequers plan.
One source said the delay in publishing the technical notices was because they were not yet ready, rather than an attempt to influence MPs as they return to Westminster after the summer.
‘This is not Project Fear,’ the source said. ‘Project Fear was a series of predictions about things. This is a very pragmatic look at things that need to be done if we arrive at a certain outcome.
‘We remain confident that we will reach a good deal.’
In a boost to the Prime Minister’s chances of reaching a deal, it emerged over the weekend that Brexit has been put on the agenda of an informal EU summit in September.
Downing Street said Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz agreed that Britain’s departure from the EU would be discussed at the European Council meeting being hosted by his country, which currently holds the EU presidency, on September 20.
That could allow Mrs May to prepare the ground for an October meeting of EU leaders where the details of the future relationship would be thrashed out.
MAY ESCAPES… TO EUROPE
After long, tortuous EU negotiations you might think Theresa May is tired of Europe. But the Prime Minister has begun a week-long walking holiday in Italy, having survived a rollercoaster month in Parliament. Mrs May and her husband Philip were seen looking relaxed yesterday as they strolled by Lake Garda, known for its beautifully clear water. The Prime Minister dressed for comfort, in a pair of £50 white canvas trainers, with beige cropped trousers and a white short-sleeved shirt. She and her husband share an interest in walking, having infamously gone hiking in Wales over the Easter break last year where she made the decision to hold the election that wiped out her majority.