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No Deal Contingency Plans

Volume 650: debated on Thursday 6 December 2018

16. What steps the Government are taking to prepare contingency plans for the UK leaving the EU without a deal. (908055)

17. What steps the Government are taking to prepare contingency plans for the UK leaving the EU without a deal. (908057)

While the chances of no deal have been reduced considerably because of the deal that we have on the table, the Government continue to prepare for all eventualities. Extensive work to prepare for a no deal scenario has been under way throughout Government for more than two years, with more than 300 unique work streams. That work continues apace. We have published 106 technical notices to help businesses and citizens; successfully passed critical legislation; signed international agreements; recruited additional staff; and guaranteed certain EU funding in a no deal scenario.

I welcome the Secretary of State, along with my great friend the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng), who takes his rightful place on the Government Front Bench. Will the Minister set out specific examples of what the Government have done in their no-deal preparations? Does he agree that the actions he has outlined are far better than the zero pounds that the shadow Chancellor committed to prepare for no deal?

The whole House will be aware that we have passed a lot of critical legislation, including the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act 2018 and the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. We have signed key international agreements, including new bilateral nuclear co-operation deals with the US, Australia and Canada. We are recruiting new staff to prepare for the day the UK leaves the EU, including more than 600 new Border Force officers in addition to 300 officers deployed by the end of this year.

It is rumoured today—I read it on Twitter, so it must be true—that the Privy Council is to be briefed by the Cabinet Office civil contingencies department on its preparations for no deal. In the interests of balance, will the Minister ensure that the Privy Council is also given a full report of his Department’s readiness for a no-deal outcome so that it is fully informed?

I do not know whether that was a bid from my hon. Friend to become a Privy Counsellor, but he would be a worthy recipient of that honour. My Department always remains open, and I remain open to talk to all colleagues, from whatever part of the House, about the Government’s no-deal planning.

We seem to have a slightly contrary position here. Earlier, we heard from Ministers that there is nothing to fear for manufacturers about no deal and that there are scare stories in this place, but we also hear that there is lots of contingency planning. I have visited manufacturers, and they remain scared of no deal. This week Bristol City Council has published its assessment of a no-deal scenario. Have Ministers met with leaders of Core Cities to discuss and debate what a no-deal scenario means for these drivers of our economies across England?

The very simple answer is yes, Ministers have been meeting with councils up and down the country. There are four Ministers within my Department and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government who also do that. I suppose it is an interesting balance, when trying to get a deal with some of our best friends, whether to float above the surface the extent of the no-deal planning we might be doing, but a responsible Government plans for everything.

Given the continued concern about medical supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit, can the Minister assure us about the latest situation for people on life-saving medicines?

As a responsible Government, we will do whatever it takes to ensure that cross-channel trade continues to move as freely as possible, and we have a range of contingency plans in place just in case. Our top priority is ensuring that traffic and goods keep moving, which is why we have been speaking directly to industry across the medical supply chain, from pharmaceutical trade bodies to storage providers, so that consumers continue and will continue to get medicines in the same way as they do now in the event of there being no deal.