Leaked UK Memos Warn of Shortages 08/18 09:47
LONDON (AP) -- Secret British government documents have warned of serious
disruptions across the country in the event that the U.K. leaves the European
Union without a trade deal on Oct. 31, according to a report.
The Sunday Times newspaper published what it said was what the British
government expects in the case of a sudden, "no-deal" Brexit. Among the most
serious: "significant" disruptions to the supply of drugs and medicine, a
decrease in the availability of fresh food and even potential fresh water
shortages due to possible interruptions of imported water treatment chemicals.
Although the grim scenarios reportedly outlined in the government documents
have long been floated by academics and economists, they've been repeatedly
dismissed as scaremongering by Brexit proponents.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is ready to leave the EU
regardless of whether he is able to renegotiate the Brexit deal struck with
Brussels by his predecessor, Theresa May.
His own officials, however, have warned that with a no-deal Brexit, the
sharing of law enforcement data and the health of Britain's crucial financial
services industry could be in jeopardy after Oct. 31.
The documents published by the Times also quote officials as warning that up
to 85% of all trucks wouldn't be ready for French customs at the critical
English Channel crossing that day, causing lines that could stretch out for
days. Some 75% of all drugs coming into Britain arrive via that crossing, the
memos warned, "making them particularly vulnerable to severe delays."
The officials foresee "critical elements" of the food supply chain being
affected that would "reduce availability and choice and increase the price,
which will affect vulnerable groups."
Britain's Cabinet Office didn't return a message seeking comment on the
documents, but Michael Gove, the British minister in charge of no-deal
preparations, insisted that the files represented a "worst case scenario."
Very "significant steps have been taken in the last 3 weeks to accelerate
Brexit planning," he said in a message posted to Twitter.
But the documents, which are titled "planning assumptions," mention a "base
scenario," not a "worst case" one. The Times quoted an unnamed Cabinet Office
source as saying the memos were simply realistic assessments of what was most
likely to happen.
The opposition Labour Party, which is trying to delay Brexit and organize a
government of national unity, held up the report as another sign that no-deal
must be avoided.
"It seems to me is what we've seen is a hard-headed assessment of reality,
that sets out in really stark terms what a calamitous outcome of no-deal Brexit
would mean for the United Kingdom," lawmaker Nick Thomas-Symonds told Sky News
television. "The government is reckless in the way it's been pushing forward
with no-deal planning in this way."