No Deal contingency plans revealed: More than 3,000 lorries a week mobilised to bring in medicines


The Government has revealed its No Deal contingency plans, including more than 3,000 lorries a week to bring in essential drugs and 1,100 extra customs and immigration officers.

Preparations for Britain crashing out without a free trade agreement have so far seen Royal Navy vessels deployed to ‘threats of illegal fishing’ in UK waters, Number 10 confirmed last night.

Now officials have announced a raft of other moves, including the recruitment of extra border staff to help ensure the country can keep moving once the transitional arrangement with Brussels ends. 

The extra employees will be supported by seven inland inspection sites, a round-the-clock Border Operations Centre, support phone lines and a hauliers’ app. 

Under the No Deal contingency plans released last night include more than 3,000 lorries a week will be mobilised to bring essential drugs and medical equipment into the UK. Pictured: Lorries queuing for the Port of Dover along the A20 in Kent

Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the go ahead to launch a £4 billion operation to safeguard Britain’s supply chain and fishing waters as he hinted that he is prepared to walk away from an EU trade deal. 

Mr Johnson told Tories at a fundraising event last night, according to The Sun: ‘Everybody is going to have to get ready, whatever the terms of the new arrangements we have with our friends and partners in Europe.’ 

A Government spokesman said: ‘Having safeguarded the flow of critical goods, such as vaccines and vital medicines, through surging freight capacity, no one needs to worry about our food, medicine or vital supply chains.’ 

A Border Operations Centre is being manned around the clock by expert officials to limit hold-ups (file image)

A Border Operations Centre is being manned around the clock by expert officials to limit hold-ups (file image) 

The development comes after the Ministry of Defence confirmed that four 80-metre gunboats have been placed on standby to guard British waters from EU trawlers. 

The vessels are on standby in the event that there is no new agreement on fishing rights after December 31, when transitional arrangements end.    

Under the No Deal contingency plans released last night:  

  • A total of 1,100 extra customs and immigration officers will be manning the border by March, while 20 telephone helplines will provide advice to businesses
  • Whitehall will ‘war-game’ its No Deal preparations within days in Operation Capstone, which will simulate the worst-case scenarios
  • An official ‘playbook’ has been devised to ‘map out every foreseeable No Deal scenario’, according to sources, with ‘Minister-approved courses of action’
  • Live exercises have been run to move fresh produce, fish and even day-old chicks from the EU to the UK
  • A bespoke phone app for hauliers will keep lorries moving by directing drivers to the closest of seven new inland border checkpoints, while a ‘haulier handbook’ on the changes has been translated into 13 languages
  • A Border Operations Centre is being manned around the clock by expert officials to limit hold-ups  
  • A Fish Export Service will issue ‘validated catch certificates’ and technical support for the industry. 
  • A 27-acre lorry park off the M20 in case of tailbacks caused by border checks at Dover 
  • Christmas leave cancelled for senior officials in some important or sensitive roles
  • More than 20 new helpline numbers for sectors seeking advice including businesses and tourists  

Reports have suggested that ministers are preparing to beef-up Navy powers to permit them to board European vessels and arrest fishermen contravening post-Brexit rules as part of a ratcheting up of No-deal preparations.  

Outlining the steps taken to prepare for all Brexit eventualities, a UK Government spokesman said: ‘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.’

A bespoke phone app for hauliers will keep lorries moving by directing drivers to the closest of seven new inland border checkpoints, while a 'haulier handbook' on the changes has been translated into 13 languages (file image)

A bespoke phone app for hauliers will keep lorries moving by directing drivers to the closest of seven new inland border checkpoints, while a ‘haulier handbook’ on the changes has been translated into 13 languages (file image) 

The exercise was part of ‘live’ planning with officials revealing that there is a playbook in Whitehall that ‘maps out every single foreseeable scenario’ for post-December 31 trouble and lists minister-approved responses to allow for immediate remedy. 

The XO Committee dealing with Brexit preparations is said to have met more than 200 times and is planning to meet ‘well into the New Year’, according to the Cabinet Office, as ministers look to assure the public the country is ready for 2021 whether there is a trade deal with the European Union or not.

Both sides have been downbeat over the prospect of an agreement, with the Prime Minister and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen setting Sunday as the deadline for making a firm decision on the talks.

The additional staff, which would see 900 hired and 1,100 more to be recruited by March, would also be supported by seven inland inspection sites, a round-the-clock Border Operations Centre, support phone lines and a hauliers' app (file image)

The additional staff, which would see 900 hired and 1,100 more to be recruited by March, would also be supported by seven inland inspection sites, a round-the-clock Border Operations Centre, support phone lines and a hauliers’ app (file image) 

The XO, which is chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, is looking to increase public awareness about the changing rules that are set to come into force in little under three weeks’ time.

‘As with any major change, deal or no deal, there will be challenges and bumps to overcome,’ said a Government spokesman.

‘There will be new rules for those travelling and traders, this would be the case with a free trade agreement – just as it would without one.

No Deal contingency plans have been revealed which include more than 3,000 lorries a week for essential drugs and 1,100 extra customs and immigration officers. Pictured: Lorries queuing to access the Eurotunnel site near Folkestone in Kent

No Deal contingency plans have been revealed which include more than 3,000 lorries a week for essential drugs and 1,100 extra customs and immigration officers. Pictured: Lorries queuing to access the Eurotunnel site near Folkestone in Kent

‘We’ve chosen to stage the introduction of our new border requirements – but the EU has not.

‘That is why businesses need to be ready for the new requirements on January 1 no matter the outcome – or risk goods not passing through the borders and adding to queues.’ 

It comes after a multi-billion pound bailout package has been drafted by Cabinet Ministers to support businesses most affected by a No Deal Brexit. 

The proposals drawn up by Whitehall departments include deals for sheep farmers, fishermen, car manufacturers and chemical suppliers who face harmful EU tariffs or trade disruption, according to The Sunday Telegraph. 

Tony Danker, CBI director-general, called for ‘grace periods’ to be agreed so businesses did not face a ‘damaging cliff edge’ if there was no meeting of minds on a deal.

He said: ‘Many businesses and many jobs are at stake in these negotiations, so we appeal to politicians on both sides of the Channel to find the path through this.

‘But with less than three weeks to go, we also need to plan in parallel for January 1, deal or no-deal.

‘That means everything from border systems and processes to data adequacy and financial services equivalence. It also means allowing sensible grace periods for businesses to adapt to re-labelling of products and phasing in of border checks.

‘We need both sides to be deeply practical – and to remove the immediate threat of a damaging cliff-edge.’

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