Government 'planning for martial law' under emergency no-deal Brexit preparations

Posted On: 
27th January 2019

The civil service has drawn up plans for the introduction of martial law in the event of a chaotic no-deal Brexit, it has been reported.

According to the Sunday Times, troops could be deployed to calm disorder if the Civil Contingencies Act is used.
Credit: 
PA

According to the Sunday Times, officials have gamed a state of emergency and the use of powers under the Civil Contingencies Act to crack down on disorder if the UK is plunged into turmoil without a Brexit deal.

Measures available under that law include travel bans, curfews and the deployment of the armed forces on the streets of Britain - while ministers would be able to amend any act of Parliament except the Human Rights Act for up to 21 days.

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A Downing Street spokesperson said: "Respecting the referendum decision means leaving the EU.

"The PM has said that there will be disruption in the event of no deal, but as a responsible Government we are taking the appropriate steps to minimise this disruption and ensure the country is prepared."

A source told the Sunday Times: "As no-deal preparations are accelerated and training is rolled out to civil servants, questions have been raised about the legislation and how it could be used in the event of a no-deal Brexit."

The report was quickly seized on by critics of Britain's planned exit from the the EU.

Labour MP David Lammy of the Best for Britain campaign said: "The idea that the Government has any mandate for this catastrophic scenario is ludicrous.

"The Leave campaign promised a stable new trading relationship with the EU after Brexit, not total isolation and soldiers in our airports."

MINISTERS' NO-DEAL DEFIANCE

It came as a serving minister broke ranks to demand that Theresa May removes the threat of a no-deal Brexit - the default position if Parliament does not back a deal with the European Union by March 29 - as MPs prepare to vote on alternatives to her agreement with the EU.

Writing in the same paper, Mr Ellwood - who voted to Remain in the EU 2016 - said: "It is now time to rule out the very possibility of no deal.

"It is wrong for Government and business to invest any more time and money in a no deal outcome which will make us poorer, weaker and smaller in the eyes of the world."

Mrs May has repeatedly warned that the only way to avert a no-deal Brexit is to back her deal, although MPs will next week vote on plans to request an extension of Article 50 - a move which would postpone leaving without an agreement.

The intervention from Mr Ellwood comes just days after business minister Richard Harrington openly challenged the Prime Minister to sack him after he said the threat by Airbus to quit the UK proved a no-deal Brexit would be a "disaster".

Meanwhile the British Chambers of Commerce, which represents 75,000 British business, has revealed that many of its members have begun putting emergency plans for a no-deal outcome in place - with some already moving operations overseas or stockpiling goods.

Matt Griffith, director of policy at the BCC’s west of England branch, told the Observer: "Since the defeat for the prime minister’s deal, we have seen a sharp increase in companies taking actions to try and protect themselves from the worst effects of a no-deal Brexit.

"No deal has gone from being one of several possible scenarios to a firm date in the diary."