‘Britain on the brink’: UK police planning for civil disorder in case there’s no Brexit deal
Home secretary Sajid Javid said no deal with the EU could cause a sharp rise in crime and widespread protests escalating into weeks of chaos
Britain’s police chiefs have drawn up plans to deal with any civil disorder if the country leaves the European Union without a Brexit agreement, a newspaper report said on Sunday.
Citing a leaked document, The Sunday Times reported concerns that shortages of food and goods, including health care supplies, will result in “civil disorder leading to widespread unrest”.
The document was prepared by the National Police Co-ordination Centre, which is responsible for coordinating police deployments during large-scale events and at times of national crisis.
The newspaper said the disruption and civil unrest could last for three months either side of Brexit day on March 29, 2019.
Interior minister Sajid Javid told the BBC: “I’m glad the police and other experts are looking into this and thinking what might happen in a no-deal scenario. I don’t expect a no-deal outcome but we need to prepare for all contingencies.”
But Louise Haigh, crime spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party, said the scenario outlined would be a “nightmare” and a “no-deal Brexit would leave Britain on the brink”.
Britain and the EU hope to finalise a divorce deal in the coming weeks, but negotiations have become stuck on the issue of the Irish border.
The leaked document warns there is the “expectation that more people will become ill”.
The plan says there is the “real possibility” that soldiers would have to be deployed on the streets, even with police leave postponed.
Part of the report says: “There is an expectation that crime not directly connected to Brexit will rise, as acquisitive crime will habitually rise in the event of restricted availability of goods.”
Javid told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I’m not going to get into what the situation may or may not be, but I think it’s fair to say we’re preparing for all contingencies.”
Asked several times whether this response meant the scenario outlined in the police report could happen, Javid declined to reject the possibility, saying only that the public should be reassured that the government was planning to mitigate problems.
“This is an unprecedented situation,” he said. “But most important of all we need to keep focused on the deal, and get a deal delivered, but at the same time of course every government department should prepare for all possible outcomes.”
Asked again if disorder could break out, Javid said: “I don’t think people need to worry. The reason people don’t need to worry is because the government is looking, rightly, at what could be the possible outcomes in a no-deal situation, and then preparing for that and trying to mitigate that. And that’s why the police and others have been asked to do this kind of analysis.”
Other possible effects of a no-deal Brexit cited in the police report include the possibility of mass queuing systems for lorries imposed at every UK port, requiring heavy police numbers and “unprecedented and overwhelming” disruption on the roads.
Another effect could be the inability of EU nationals to continue working as police, something that would deprive the Metropolitan police alone of 750 officers.
Agence France-Presse, The Guardian