Troops on stand-by as Cabinet ramps up planning for a no-deal Brexit
PUBLISHED: 14:22 18 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:10 18 December 2018
3,500 troops will be on stand-by to deal with the impact of a no-deal Brexit, it has emerged as Theresa May ramps up her planning.
The prime minister's Brexit deal remains the preferred outcome for the government, she continues to insist, but with just over 100 days until the UK's departure from the bloc the intensity of preparations for crashing out in March 2019 will increase.
Brexit secretary Steve Barclay said that unless MPs back May's deal when it returns to the Commons in January the default option is for the UK to leave without any exit arrangement in place.
Some 3,500 troops will be on stand-by to help deal with the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
Speaking after the Cabinet agreed to step up no-deal preparation, Barclay said: "Parliament needs to back the deal because the consequence of not doing so is we risk the default of no-deal and a responsible government must prepare for that eventuality.
"That is what we agreed at Cabinet. That is what we are going to do."
He dismissed alternative plans being pushed by ministers - including a second referendum or a "managed" no-deal under which arrangements are made with Brussels to limit any negative impacts of severing ties with the EU.
"There are a number of scenarios being floated in government without, I think, people really engaging on the consequences of that - either the consequence to our democracy of not delivering on the referendum, not having Brexit - or the idea that we can cherry-pick and have some managed no-deal where the EU will suspend its own red lines, which I don't think is feasible."
In a direct plea to the UK's business community he urged company bosses to make sure they were ready for a no-deal Brexit.
It needed to be "much more of a priority for businesses up and down the country," he said in a rebuke to business.
In the Commons, Williamson said the Ministry of Defence had not had a "formal request" for support in no-deal Brexit planning but "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".
Labour MP Ian Murray, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: “Putting 3,500 military personnel on standby for a no-deal Brexit demonstrates just how incredibly serious this is.
“This is the reality of a no-deal Brexit: soldiers on the streets, medicines being stockpiled in the NHS and airports and ferry terminals grinding to a halt.
"This is scary tactics, pure and simple.
“With just over 100 days left until we’re due to leave the EU, and Theresa May’s bad deal certain to be rejected by parliament, the threat of a no-deal Brexit and the catastrophe that will bring has become an alarming possibility.
“But there is an alternative: a people’s vote on Brexit would give us the option to keep the best deal we have as part of the EU.”