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UK’s top civil servant issues stark no-deal Brexit warning as Commons deadlock continues

3 min read

The UK's top civil servant has given ministers a grim forecast of how the country could be affected by a no-deal Brexit after MPs once again rejected alternative plans to break the deadlock.

In a dire analysis handed to ministers ahead of a marathon five-hour cabinet meeting, Sir Mark Sedwill warned that allowing a no-deal Brexit could significantly weaken the UK’s national security apparatus and lead to soaring food prices.

The stark forecast comes hours after MPs once again failed to find a majority for any alternative Brexit plan, leaving the UK on track to crash out of the EU without a deal in 10 days’ time.

But in the 14-page letter, obtained by the Daily Mail, the Cabinet Secretary warned that leaving the EU without a deal could devastate the UK economy and force minister to impose direct rule on Northern Ireland.

He wrote: “We believe there would be significant disruption in the short term. Food prices would increase by up to 10 per cent with steeper rises in fresh produce prices.”

The top mandarin also warned a no-deal exit could lead to a UK-wide economic downturn, writing: "Unlike in 2008 our recession would be a local one, not an international one. This would make the currency depreciation more harmful."

He went on: "Our national security would be disrupted.

“The UK would forfeit access to criminal justice levers. None of our mitigation measure would give the UK the same security capabilities as our current ones.

“A no-deal exit would enormously increase pressure on our law and security authorities and on our judicial system. The UK would be less safe as a result of this.”

And in a stark warning for Northern Ireland, Sir Mark said the stability of the Union would be “dislocated” - and floated the prospect of Whitehall stepping in to take over the day-to-day running of the country.

“The current powers granted to the Northern Irish Secretary would not be adequate for the pace, breadth or controversy of the decisions needed to be taken through a No Deal exit,” he said. "Therefore, we would have to introduce Direct Rule."


But former Brexit secretary David Davis dismissed the warning as “nonsense”, and branded the letter was a "complete Whitehall scare story".

"The only way you can have food shortages is if we cause it by stopping food coming in at the border," he told the BBC.

"This is ridiculous. We are the biggest intelligence power and policing power in Europe."

The forecast comes as 170 MPs, including ten cabinet ministers, wrote to Mrs May urging her to allow a no-deal Brexit on 12 April if MPs once again reject her ill-fated withdrawal agreement.

Treasury Secretary Liz Truss, who signed the letter to the PM, said: “I think we are well-prepared for No Deal.

“I don’t have any fear of No Deal.”

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