Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has poured scorn on ‘Project Fear’ suggestions that ‘no deal’ could spark a sandwich famine or that the army could be asked to deliver food supplies. “Who is credibly suggesting, in a ‘no deal’ scenario, that the EU would not want to continue to sell food to UK consumers?” he asked rhetorically. “Contrary to one of the wilder claims, you will still be able to enjoy a BLT after Brexit. And there are no plans to deploy the army to maintain food supplies.”
Mr Raab has started setting out what might happen in the event of ‘no deal’, particularly the business, public and voluntary sectors, adding that he felt the possibility of no deal was ‘unlikely’. He had just returned from Brussels, where he had a further round of negotiations with Michel Barnier. They have agreed to step up the pace and intensity of the negotiations and Mr Raab said he was confident a good deal was in their sights. He described that outcome as an ‘overriding priority’.
He reminded everyone that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ but said the financial settlement and the terms of the implementation period have both been agreed, although the situation in Northern Ireland has yet to be finalised. Security and our economic partnership with the bloc also needed further focus.
The two sides will now negotiate continuously in an attempt to “reach a deal that is in both sides’ interests” he said, and added that he expected the EU would respond “with the same level of ambition and pragmatism” leading to a strong deal that benefits both sides.
However, he also said: “At the same time, naturally we have to got to consider the alternative possibility, that the EU does not match our ambition and pragmatism and we do not reach a deal.”
This is not what the government wants or expects, he insisted, but as a responsible government he said it had a duty to plan “for every eventuality” and this was why he was publishing the first 25 in a series of technical notices designed to inform people and businesses in the UK about what they need to do in the event of a no deal.
He described the notices as “practical and proportionate”, and insisted they were a common sense approach to planning for no deal, adding that they underline the government’s resolve, whatever the outcome of negotiations, to chart its own course.
Some of the legislation has already been put into place. The EU (Withdrawal) Act enables the government to take back control of British laws while guaranteeing that our exit from the EU is smooth and orderly. Other legislation has also been passed and further laws will be presented to Parliament in the future.
The government has been recruiting the staff it needs and making sure that agreements that link us to the EU are being considered. A further £3 billion has been committed to Brexit. “So our laws will be on the statute book, the staff will be in place, the teams will be in post, and our institutions will be ready for Brexit — deal, or no deal,” he said.
The technical notices published today set out how there would be a functioning customs, VAT and excise system on ‘day one’, explain the steps being taken to transfer all EU legislation regarding workplace rights into UK law, and cover healthcare, scientific research, farmers’ funding and NGOs fighting global poverty.
He said the prospect that the bloc would resist all and any mutual co-operation with the EU was “difficult to imagine” and added that many of the ‘no deal’ challenges would affect the bloc in similar or the same way, in which case the UK would behave as a “responsible European neighbour, partner and ally”. He mentioned that already there is a dialogue between the Bank of England and the European Central Bank but there was further ‘engagement’ needed, for example between port authorities.
Mr Raab hoped that “such engagement on no deal, necessary as it now is, will be rendered redundant by the successful outcome from our negotiations” and added that he will be returning to Brussels next week with that in mind, even as work on no deal planning continues.
He concluded by describing the message he wanted to put over as a pragmatic one, urging everyone with review their own contingency plans just in case his efforts are ‘not matched’. “I am confident that this country’s best days lie ahead,” he said.
You can read Dominic Raab’s full speech here.