Cabinet office warns a no-deal Brexit could hit Britain like Iceland’s 2010 volcanic ash cloud chaos as civil servants prepare for ‘reasonable worst-case scenarios’
- Cabinet Office has warned Whitehall to prepare for possibility of a no-deal Brexit
- Compared no-deal Brexit to the disruption seen by eruption from Eyjafjallajökull
- Hundreds of thousands of people were stranded due to the ash clouds in 2010
- Civil servant said the level of planning for no-deal Brexit is same as war planning
A no-deal Brexit could be similar to the national emergency Iceland faced during the volcanic eruptions in 2010, civil servants have been warned.
The Cabinet Office, which issued the warning, is now planning training for thousands of staff across Whitehall to prepare for the possibility the UK could leave without a deal on March 29.
The eruptions and ash clouds from Eyjafjallajökull sparked chaos in Iceland and across Europe as flights were ground to a halt, effecting hundreds of thousands of travellers.
Ash plume from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull crater during it’s eruption, spewing tephra and ashes that drift toward continental Europe on May 15, 2010
One civil servant told the Guardian: ‘The level of planning required for no-deal Brexit is the same level as war planning.
‘A no-deal Brexit will have the same systemic impact. Iceland gives us hints and clues about what might happen, but Brexit is unlike anything we have ever seen.’
The fall-out from Eyjafjallajökull is being used as the closest possible comparison to the disruption Britain could face, although the disruption from Brexit is likely to be much broader, according to the government’s private planning assumptions.
Civil servants are said to be dismayed at the lack of planning gone into preparing for a no-deal, as preparations and planning for most civil servants began earlier this month. The government insists major planning for no-deal began last year.
No-deal planning – codenamed Operation Yellowhammer – has involved hundreds of civil servants being given three-hour introductory briefings on trade, border crossing and regulations.
The ash plume from the eruptions spread across Europe, affecting hundreds of thousands of flights
The fall-out from Eyjafjallajökull is being used as the closest possible comparison to the disruption Britain could face
The government has a list of ‘worst-case scenarios’ which is being updated. Among those seen by the Guardian include the UK and EU not securing data protection before Brexit; food price increases; inability to restock medicines; private companies ‘cashing in’ and police forces struggling to deal with protests, among many other situations.
Another concern includes national security and the government’s Cobra committee, which sits in times of emergency.
One source told the Guardian: ‘Cobra can only take decisions if it knows what is going on at the local level.
‘It needs information that has been properly collected and collated. At the moment we don’t have that system in place.’
Another said they were ‘having meetings for the sake of meetings’, adding: ‘There has been a lack of energy and a lack of urgency. The preparations for no-deal Brexit feel very unstable.’
The Cabinet Office said it was sensible to use comparisons between Iceland’s emergency in 2010.
A government spokesperson said: ‘The government remains committed to delivering an orderly withdrawal from the EU. Our high-level planning assumptions ensure we can responsibly prepare for all scenarios.’
The government insists planning for a no-deal Brexit started last year