100 Days Til Brexit: May ditches key manifesto pledges

100 Days Til Brexit: May ditches key manifesto pledges as planning for No Deal doomsday steps up with nationwide leaflet campaign telling families to ‘get ready’ for chaos and troops on standby

  • Election promises including social care reform and T Levels might be postponed 
  • Yesterday Cabinet approved 320 no-deal contingency plans and an extra £2bn
  • Leaflets will be sent to millions of homes and 3,500 British troops on standby
  • Concerns that ferries can no longer be hired to transport emergency supplies 
  • Today is 100 days until the UK’s March 29 scheduled departure date from the EU 

After the Prime Minister and colleagues left a cabinet meeting yesterday it emerged 320 no deal Brexit contingency plans will be activated and manifesto pledges scrapped

The government is activating 320 contingency plans and setting aside key manifesto pledges to prepare the country for a possible no deal Brexit.

With 100 days until the scheduled date for Britain to leave the European Union, the Prime Minister’s de facto deputy David Lidington will start to identify policies to be put on hold to free up Whitehall resources, a senior source said.

Planned reforms to social care – already the subject of a preliminary Green Paper despite having proved wildly unpopular on the campaign trail in 2017 – and the introduction of T Levels, technical equivalents to A Levels, are the policies likeliest to be scrapped, The Times reported.

Following a febrile Cabinet meeting yesterday it was also announced 3,500 troops will be held ‘at readiness’ to help with disruption at ports or provide transportation or logistical support as needed.

And a leaflet campaign to brief millions of families on how best to prepare themselves for a no-deal Brexit is to be launched. The information will first be made available online on Friday and the campaign will encompass radio, television and social media advertising.

Millions of businesses have also been told to prepare. HM Revenue & Customs will email 80,000 firms directly while a 100-page ‘Partnership Pack’ will be published to help all companies get themselves ready for turmoil.

Mrs May’s spokesman refused to comment on whether families will be warned about food stockpiling – or reports Northern Ireland could be left dependent on generators.

But doubts have been raised about whether it is already too late, with claims only a third of the money allocated so far has been spent, and shipping space is already fully booked. It also emerged:

  • An additional £2bn is being allocated for Brexit preparations for all scenarios
  • The government will reserve space on ferries to bring in medical supplies if the normal Channel links break down
  • Security and law enforcement will be treated as “priority issues”
  • COBRA meetings will being held at required intervals something

Raab: ‘No deal? Give £39bn to businesses’

Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has said the £39bn the UK will not have to pay the EU if we leave without a deal should be given as tax breaks to businesses.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph Mr Raab, who resigned his post in November after four months, said leaving the EU without a deal and agreeing to trade on WTO terms would end ‘torturous Brexit haggling’.

He said the money could be used by the Treasury to support companies put at risk by the ‘significant but manageable’ disruption of a no deal Brexit, which he said would only be short term.

During the cabinet meeting Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd – among those cabinet ministers most ardently opposed to no deal – is reported to have said: ‘Just because you’ve put a seatbelt on, it doesn’t mean you should crash the car’.

Amid claims the public might be alarmed by the dramatic preparations, Mrs May’s spokesman insisted: ‘These are the actions of a sensible Government to ensure people are prepared’.

It came as four minor opposition parties co-tabled a formal no-confidence motion in the Government under the terms of the Fixed Terms Parliament.

Unlike Jeremy Corbyn’s proposed vote on Monday this motion would have the power to topple the Conservatives if passed – but the government is only duty bound to schedule such a vote if called to do so by the official Leader of the Opposition. 

At yesterday’s Cabinet ministers stressed 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.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson (left) and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox (right) leaving yesterday’s fractious Cabinet meeting 10 Downing Street. Mr Williamson said 3,5000 troops would be put on standby to help in the event of a no deal Brexit

Parties’ bid to topple government

The SNP and other opposition parties have tabled a vote of no confidence in the UK Government.

L-R Ian Blackford, SNP Westminster leader; Sir Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat leader; Adam Price, Plaid Cymru leader; Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP

It comes after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded a Commons vote on the Prime Minister’s future when she confirmed a vote on her Brexit deal would not take place until after Christmas.

The SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens tabled a vote of no confidence in the UK government following a meeting on Tuesday evening.

They said the decision follows constant pressure on Mr Corbyn to table a motion of no confidence in the UK government under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which he has not done.

But under the terms of the legislation the Government is only required to allow time for such a vote if it is tabled by the Leader of the Opposition. 

‘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.

‘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.

Shadow Brexit Minister Jenny Chapman condemned the plans.

She said: ‘It is testament to the Prime Minister’s failure in these negotiations that the Government is now spending billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to prepare for a no deal Brexit that is rejected by Parliament and many of those sat around the Cabinet table.

‘A no deal Brexit would be a disaster for jobs, the economy and the border in Northern Ireland. It is simply not a viable option.’ 

Defence Secretary reveals 3,500 troops on standby

Extra personnel could be needed at British ports, at the border or even to help police civil disobedience if a no deal Brexit leads to food shortages or other problems 

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told MPs yesterday 3,500 troops will be ‘held at readiness’ to help with a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Williamson said the troops could be used by any department as needed – but that no specific requests had yet been made for them.

Extra personnel could be needed at British ports, at the border or even to help police civil disobedience if a no deal Brexit leads to food shortages or other problems. 

Downing Street insisted the use of soldiers was common – pointing to how troops helped out successfully in the running of the Olympics.  

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Williamson said: ‘We’ve as yet not had any formal request from any Government department but what we are doing is putting contingency plans in place, and what we will do is have 3,500 service personnel held at readiness – including regulars and reserves – in order to support any Government department on any contingencies they may need.’ 

Ministers book space on ferries for critical supplies

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had mooted the Government leasing entire roll-on, roll-off lorry ferries

Reserving space on ferries for critical supplies is among the contingency plans triggered by the Cabinet yesterday.

Downing Street confirmed the proposal was among 320 work streams, which have been in preparation for months, given a green light today as Britain prepares for the possibility of no deal.

Mrs May’s spokesman said ‘medical supplies’ were among the things that could be brought in if the normal Channel links break down. 

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had mooted the Government leasing entire roll-on, roll-off lorry ferries. 

Families to get advice on how to prepare for no deal

Families will be told to make their own preparations for a no deal Brexit over the coming weeks, Downing Street warned.

The Government will use a variety of ‘channels’ to get information out to citizens about what might happen and what they should.

Mrs May’s spokesman said the public could look at the 106 notices issued over the summer about what might happen and promised ‘more detailed’ information would be issued over the coming weeks. 

Asked if the public should be frightened by the announcements, the spokesman said: ‘Securing a deal remains the Government’s top priority.

‘As a sensible Government it is our duty to make sure we are prepared for all scenarios.’ 

Up to 10,000 lorries could be parked in Kent if no deal causes delays at the ports 

Dover has room for 1,720, Manston Airport near Margate, which has been purchased by the Department for Transport, could fit 4,000 and 4,500 could be parked on the M20 – as happened when ‘Operation Stack’ was triggered in 2015

More than 10,000 lorries could be parked in Kent to cater for queues of trucks heading for France in event of a no-deal Brexit. 

First lorries would be parked at Dover, then on Manston Airport and finally the M20.

Dover has room for 1,720, Manston Airport near Margate, which has been purchased by the Department for Transport, could fit 4,000 and 4,500 could be parked on the M20 – as happened when ‘Operation Stack’ was triggered in 2015.

Further contingency plans that emerged in November suggested the 10-mile long M26 could also be pressed into service for overflowing lorries.  

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

What no deal plans are already in place?  

Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled £3billion for no deal plans at the Budget in Autumn 2017 – all of which is due to have been spent by exit day.

It has been spent on: 

  • 300 extra frontline officers for Border Force, plus 1000 staff to tackle border issues
  • 1,300 extra staff at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs
  • Reforms to the Competitions and Markets Authority to ensure it can also act as the UK State Aid regulator 
  • Drawing up more than 100 no deal ‘notice’ advising different sectors how to prepare for possible problems, including at the border 
  • Replacing regulatory agreements currently dependent on the EU with UK versions in areas like nuclear cooperation 

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 forthcoming Christmas break.

But with just 100 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 yesterday – 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.

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

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.

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