Brexit trade talks: Government ramps up No Deal contingency plans

13 December 2020, 08:54 | Updated: 13 December 2020, 08:59

A £4bn No Deal contingency plan has been released
A £4bn No Deal contingency plan has been released. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson has given the green light to a £4billion operation to protect Britain’s supply chain and fishing waters, taking control of Britain's No Deal preparations.

Mr Johnson will reportedly lead a new 'super-committee' alongside the existing No Deal preparation group chaired by Michael Gove.

The plan will see an extra 900 border officers deployed in the key Channel port of Dover to ensure supply of food, medicine and other goods are not disrupted.

The talks are expected to continue late into tonight. A government source said last night: "As things stand, the offer on the table from the EU remains unacceptable.

Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen pictured together at their meeting in Brussels
Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen pictured together at their meeting in Brussels. Picture: PA

"The Prime Minister will leave no stone unturned in this process, but he is absolutely clear: any agreement must be fair and respect the fundamental position that the UK will be a sovereign nation in three weeks' time."

Fisheries and the so-called "level playing field" are still the sticking points in the UK/EU talks.

Britain's chief negotiator David Frost, left, in an underground garage leaves after a meeting with Michel Barnier
Britain's chief negotiator David Frost, left, in an underground garage leaves after a meeting with Michel Barnier. Picture: PA

Some of the measures in the new plans released last night include:

- More than 3,000 lorries a week will be used to bring essential drugs and medical equipment into the UK

- 1,100 extra customs and immigration officers will be deployed on the border by March

- An official 'playbook' has reportedly been devised to plan for all eventualities

- Exercises have been run to plan how to move fresh produce, fish and even day-old chicks from the EU to the UK

- Over 20 new helpline numbers for sectors seeking advice including businesses and tourists  

According to the Sun, Mr Johnson told Tories at a fundraising event last night: "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."

This morning, senior Tories urged Boris Johnson not to "buckle" to the EU.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Tory MP David Jones said Boris Johnson "must not buckle" and should be prepared to take negotiations right up to the legal deadline on 31 December.

The PM "must keep faith with the British people and resist any temptation to accept a sub-optimal deal that would cheat them of the sovereignty for which they voted", Jones wrote in an opinion piece for the paper.

The deputy chairman of the European Research Group added: "He should by all means negotiate, if necessary, until the stroke of 11 o'clock on New Year's Eve; but if the EU still refuses a deal that fully respects our hard-won independence, he should leave the table in the knowledge that he has the full support of his countrymen and women."

However Sir John Redwood wrote online this morning: "End the talks. The EU wants to stop us being independent. They cannot stop our trade. People and businesses buy and sell under WTO rules. The EU just makes empty threats."