What would really be involved in a no-deal Brexit and why we should be really worried

In the last few days, a whole bunch of new Cabinet ministers will have been briefed by civil servants on the consequences of a no-deal Brexit and the planning that will be required to mitigate these consequences. These Ministers will now know what a cabal of ex Cabinet Ministers have known for a long time – that a no-deal Brexit would be a enormous risk with consequences that will be terribly hard to manage.

The immediate threat would be to supply chains. A deadline of 31 October is about as bad as it could be: companies are already building up supplies ready for the Christmas market on top of earlier no-Brexit stockpiling and there just won’t be the transport and storage capacity for much more.

Cabinet has been briefed to have five priorities – in order:

  • Life-saving medicines
  • Key medical equipment
  • Fresh food
  • Nuclear power parts
  • Purification chemicals for water companies

After that, fuel and cash are critical components of the planning processes and these are interlinked. The banks need fuel to stock their cash machines and customers need cash to pay for fuel. Once petrol stations run out of supplies or people can’t pay for their fuel, we’re in trouble.

The new technology both helps and hinders the situation. On the one hand, many customers will be able to pay for fuel with credit or debit cards. On the other hand, any shortages – or, more likely, fear of shortages – will instantly be communicated and exaggerated through social media. That could lead to panic buying of fuel – or key foods – and in no time we could have queues and even riots which in turn will be spread all over social media.

At what point do hard-pressed and under-resourced police forces need the help of the military? These decisions cannot be left until panic hits the streets. It takes time to deploy troops and equipment and the timing and circumstances will be highly political considerations. So war-gaming is going on in Whitehall now and Ministers are being pressed for decisions now. Some 8,500 troops are on stand-by to intervene if there are transport blockages or civil unrest.

If the Cabinet gets this wrong and panic grips the nation, the Conservative Party will not be forgiven and will suffer an existential threat whenever the next round of elections comes round.

So what’s going to happen?

If Boris Johnson cannot negotiate a materially better exit deal with the other 27 Members States of the European Union (as seems very likely) and if Parliament makes good on its intention to block a no-deal Brexit (which also seems likely), Boris may well go for a General Election and, from a timing point of view, his options are distinctly limited because of the 31 October deadline and the turning back of the clocks on 27 October. A favoured date could well be 24 October.

Alternatively, Boris could bow to the inevitable and seek a further extension of EU membership under Article 50 in spite of his “do or die” promise.

In any event, it’s going to be a rough ride. Fasten your safety belts!


  • Mavis

    I am living in hope that someone will pop up and be able to stop this madness. Do not bank on the party I have supported and worked for from 11 till JC came into power.

    All of those, currently in power, will be insulated from all the nasty effects that will happen if we have a ‘no deal’ it will be hard enough even if we have a ‘deal’ of some sort.

    I notice that Rees-Mogg has moved some of his wealth into the Irish Republic, Dublin to be exact.

  • Roger Darlington

    I still hope that we can have a second referendum.


XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>