Theresa May warned ministers they could not delay any longer
Ministers finally activated issued all no-deal Brexit plans today as Theresa May warned they could not delay any longer.
With just 101 days to go until the UK crashes out and Parliament deadlocked, Cabinet signed off billions of pounds more spending on preparations.
The scale of the effort was underlined today as it emerged there are 320 work streams, with ferries being reserved to ensure critical medical supplies can still get into the country.
Millions of businesses will be contacted by HM Revenue & Cutoms and urged to get themselves ready for turmoil.
But doubts have been raised about whether it is already too late – with claims that only a third of the money allocated so far has been spent, and shipping space is already fully booked.
The move came at a stormy Cabinet session, with brutal clashes between ministers over what to do if Mrs May’s deal fails.
It was the last meeting of the year as Mrs May limps towards a much needed Christmas respite.
Despite overwhelming opposition from Tories, the DUP, Labour, the SNP and Lib Dems, Downing Street still hopes that MPs will come round to her Brexit plan during the break.
But with just 101 days to go before the UK leaves and Parliament deadlocked, the prospect of the UK crashing out is becoming ever more real.
Ministers led by Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock and Andrea Leadsom have been clamouring for contingency plans to be stepped up.
Cabinet was presented with three options this morning – escalating preparations with £2billion more funding, keeping planning at the same level, or dropping the idea of no-deal altogether and hope that Mrs May’s deal is accepted by MPs.
They agreed with the PM that the state of readiness must be ramped up, activating all plans.
They recommended businesses should also ensure they are suitably prepared and activate their no deal plans.
Citizens should also prepare in line with the technical notices issued over the summer and inline with further, more detailed notices that will be issued over the coming weeks.
According to Downing Street, ministers stressed that the PM’s deal with Brussels remains the Government’s top priority and best no deal mitigation.
However, they said they were determined to prepare for ‘every eventuality’.
‘Cabinet agreed that with just three months until our exit we have reached the point where we need to ramp up those preparations,’ the PM’s spokesman said.
‘We will set in motion the remaining elements of our no deal plans.’
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘The Government’s priority is to secure a deal – that hasn’t changed.
‘But alongside that, as part of our continuation of preparing for no deal, a responsible Government needs to ensure that we are ready for that default option – which we don’t want to happen – but we are ready in the event that it did happen.
‘That’s why at Cabinet today we agreed that preparing for no deal will be an operational priority within Government, but our overall priority remains to secure a deal.’
Mr Barclay said the ‘tempo’ of guidance from Government to businesses and households on how to prepare for a no-deal exit from the EU would increase.
Amber Rudd (left) has been calling for MPs to vote on a range of options if Mrs May’s deal falls. Ministers led by Sajid Javid have been clamouring for contingency plans to be stepped up
Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said today that she believes a ‘managed no deal’ Brexit is possible if the PM’s plan cannot get past Parliament
‘We need to get over to business that this is something they have to prepare for’ with ‘a matter of 14 weeks until we leave the European Union’, Steve Barclay said.
Mr Hammond is said to be frustrated that only a third of the estimated £2.2billion funds previously allocated have been spent so far.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night revealed the scale of the purchases to ensure there are not shortages of essential medicines.
He said the NHS has become the biggest buyer of fridges in the world as no-deal Brexit plans ratchet up
Speaking on the BBC’s Newsnight, Mr Hancock said the Department of Health’s plans were in place with a ‘few exceptions’.
‘I’ve become the largest buyer of fridges in the world, I didn’t expect that,’ he said.
‘Those tenders have been successfully completed are we are a combination of buying and building refrigeration capacity to make sure that we have enough for medicines.’
However, while Mr Hancock said that many of his preparations for the UK crashing out have been ‘successfully completed’, there are questions about other departments.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is embroiled in a row with the Treasury over why ships have not yet been chartered to carry emergency supplies if the biggest UK ports are gridlocked.