THE scale of the UK’s No Deal contingency planning emerged last night, with a raft of measures to keep supply chains open — and protect fishing.
⚠️ Read our Brexit live blog
Most of the action will be centred on the port of Dover — main gateway to Europe used by 11,000 trucks a day. Government insiders admit there will be “challenges and bumps to overcome” when Brexit finally happens on January 1.
But a source close to Cabinet Office supremo Michael Gove insisted: “No one needs to worry about our food, medicine or vital supplies. We have invested enough at the border to keep goods and people moving smoothly and make our country safer and more secure.”
In one of the biggest peacetime operations, the combined forces of the Royal Navy, police, border guards and customs officials will keep Britain moving. The extensive operation will include:
- Up to 900 extra officials to man the border, checking lorries and enforcing new import controls.
- Opening a 27-acre lorry park off the M20 in case of truck tailbacks caused by lengthy border checks at Dover.
- Drafting hundreds of extra police into Kent from around the country to stop smugglers and migrants exploiting the situation.
- Four Royal Navy vessels deployed off the coast to stop French trawlers fishing in British waters.
- Spotter planes and satellite surveillance to look out for further fishing infringements.
- More than 20 new helpline numbers for tourists, businesses and other sectors needing advice.
- Cancelling Christmas leave for senior officials in some sensitive and important roles.
The PM gave the go-ahead for ministers to start cranking up the operation as trade talks remained deadlocked in Brussels, despite Mr Johnson’s dinner with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen last week.
EU chiefs have still refused to budge over the two main stumbling blocks — their refusal to let the UK set its own standards under a trade deal and demanding access to British fishing waters. Hundreds of UK officials have been preparing for the worst for more than a year and soon their master plan will swing into action.
An extra 1,100 Dover customs and border staff are set to be recruited by March. But officials will have to move quickly and decisively to tackle problems the second they arise after Brexit is finalised on December 31.
Mr Gove has been overseeing a series of dummy runs for the past year. He has set out plans which map out every single foreseeable scenario with minister-approved courses of action which can be quickly implemented in a crisis.
THE DEADLINE THAT COUNTS
Robbie Gibb, Former No10 Director of Communications
IN the long-running Brexit story there is only one deadline that really matters and only one possible outcome — on December 31 Britain will once more become an independent sovereign state.
We will be able to make our own laws and control our borders. We will forge new trade deals with independent countries around the world and decide who fishes in our waters.
This is what the British people voted for. This is what will be delivered in just under three weeks’ time. Sovereignty is not some fantasy concept used as a sales pitch by Brexit backers. It is the means by which we govern our own country.
Not, as opponents claim, so we can retreat from the world but so we can build our own future. Nothing so exposed the EU’s contempt for UK sovereignty than how it conducted itself in these trade negotiations. No other country would accept what it demands of Britain as the price of an agreement.
No island state would give up control of its coastal waters. No nation would accept that future rules and regulations could be imposed by another country. Britain is asking for nothing more from the EU than the trade deal it happily signed with Canada. But the EU clings to the belief we must be punished for pursuing our own path.
More shameful still, it continues to tie our comprehensive agreement on security co-operation to a trade deal. Without a successful agreement on trade there is no agreement on sharing data that could help the fight against terrorism, organised crime and human trafficking.
To play hardball on trade is unacceptable. To play games with the safety and security of UK and EU citizens is unforgivable. It is madness for the EU to hold out on a deal that will bring so much benefit to both sides.
A plan has been drawn up to fast track between 70 and 100 lorries of perishable goods per day in the event of long tailbacks. It has been dubbed the “fish and chicks” system because food movement would be limited to fresh Scottish seafood for French restaurants and day old chicks for poultry farms.
A senior Government source said: “These plans work in real life — not just on paper. We’ve run live exercises, moving fresh produce and fish across the border, and scrambled naval vessels to respond to threats of illegal fishing in our soon-to-be sovereign waters.
“We’ve tested our traffic management plans and are confident that we have the tools to mitigate disruption at the border which will inevitably occur in the early weeks as traders adjust to the new requirements.”
The four Navy vessels deployed to protect UK fishing grounds have cannons and machine guns. They will be given power to arrest French and other EU fishermen who illegally enter Britain’s waters if there is no deal.
Top brass have put 14,000 personnel on standby to help with the rollout of coronavirus vaccines and any bad turn of weather.
The Navy’s fleet of cadet training ships could also be pressed into service with the “Cod Squad” to protect British fishing grounds up to 12 miles off the coastline. Commando raiding teams are poised to use inshore patrol boats to board foreign super-trawlers found trespassing in UK waters.
Former First Sea Lord, Admiral Lord West, warned of a “punch-up” on the high seas but insisted the Government is right to prepare for the worst. However, ex-Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood, Tory chairman of the Commons defence committee, branded the Naval threat “irresponsible”.
Meanwhile, French MEP Pierre Karleskind, chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries, called for calm. He said: “The creation of the French Royal Navy was done in 1294 in response to naval battles between French and English fishermen. So this is a long, long history between our two nations.
M20 lorry barrier
By Louise Gookey
A NEW movable barrier is being trialled on the M20 for the first time.
The system, known as Operation Brock, is being tested to stop travel chaos if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement and can’t travel freely.
Under the new system the stretch of motorway between Maidstone and Ashford will have HGV’s heading to ports using the coastbound side of the carriageway.
All other traffic will use the opposite side of the motorway and will be restricted to a 50mph contraflow.
Operation Brock, costing £55million, comes after a trial of Operation Stack which shut parts of the M20 completely.
The motorway first closed on Friday night for 12 hours so Highways England could install the concrete blocks using a zipper machine.
The motorway will continue to close during the night until Tuesday when bosses say it “will return to normal” by 8am.
Nicola Bell, Highways England south east operations director, said: “Operation Brock will keep Kent moving, and we thank road users in advance for their patience while the test is taking place.”
Operation Brock was first announced in February, installation began in September and has only been finished a month before Brexit.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Kent is a critical link to one of our busiest trade routes, and this state-of-the-art technology will ensure that we can keep the local road network moving.”
Huge search launched for boy, 16, as police helicopter flies over village
Merkel ‘wants UK to walk across broken glass’ as chance of No Deal ‘hits 80%’
Boyfriend of missing hiker Esther Dingley breaks silence on ‘break up’
PM WAR CRY
Boris kicks off £4bn No Deal operation after telling Tories ‘We’re ready’
Three in four BBC shows are ‘taken up by woke left-wing or anti-Brexit comedians’
“You’re saying it’s about fish but let’s think just a few seconds. Do you really think it’s only about fish that navy ships are used and will be used? I don’t think so. I think there are other interests like the control of the border, especially the question of migrants.”
Lord Patten, a former Cabinet minister and European commissioner, blasted the PM, saying: “I fear for our reputation around the world, I fear for what will happen economically.
“I hope that I’m wrong to feel so depressed about the outlook but I don’t think that Mr Johnson is a Conservative, I think he is an English nationalist.”
FRENCH TORPEDO OVER FISH
FRENCH politicians have vowed to sink a trade deal unless their fishermen get full access to British waters.
They are united behind President Emmanuel Macron in his hard-line stance and are braced for all-out war with UK trawlers.
Senior ministers have bombarded EU negotiator Michel Barnier with calls urging him not to cave in to Boris Johnson. But the move risks destroying their own fishing industry as French ships face a total ban if Britain leaves without a deal.
Fishermen have accused politicians of playing with their livelihoods and say banning foreign fleets from UK seas will be a disaster.
JOBLESS SURGE ON EU TERMS
BRITAIN would suffer a slump to match the Covid crisis if we accepted the EU’s terms for a trade deal, experts said.
“In the worst-case scenario, the loss to GDP would be 20 per cent with a huge rise in unemployment,” economist Professor Patrick Minford warned.
He also predicted a surge in strike action if Britain signed up to the EU’s proposals. “We would lay ourselves open to new regulations, especially on union rights,” he said.
Labour MP Graham Stringer, of the Centre for Brexit Policy, said: “The country has waited patiently to reap the benefits of Brexit. Any deal must ensure we fully take back control.”
GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL firstname.lastname@example.org