A series of technical papers on Britain’s preparedness for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit have squashed lurid scare stories about the Army being deployed and the country running out of sandwiches, recently circulated in the national press.
EU loyalists such as Labour’s David Lammy MP — who reacted to the public’s vote for Brexit by pleading “Wake up. We do not have to do this. We can stop this madness through a vote in Parliament” just days after it happened — had claimed ministers were “drawing up blueprints for the army to deliver food, fuel, and medicine” in the event of ‘No Deal’.
Indeed, the British public were subject to a range of ‘No Deal’ scare stories — dubbed Project Fear 2.0 — from the moment Parliament broke up for the summer recess, with claims that not only would the military be deployed, but the country would become vulnerable to a super-gonorrhoea epidemic and run out of sandwiches, among other catastrophes.
But Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab MP confirmed on August 23rd that rumours “a ‘No Deal’ Brexit could spark a ‘sandwich famine’ in the UK, or that we’ve asked the Army to deliver food supplies” were false.
"You will still be able to enjoy a BLT" – Brexit secretary @DominicRaab shoots down fears of a potential "sandwich famine" in the event of a #NoDealBrexit https://t.co/DKjbptXXpT pic.twitter.com/9PaH7TOqpI
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) August 23, 2018
“In reality, our food and drink supply is diverse,” Raab explained, pointing to figures which show that in 2016 Britain’s own farmers supplied half of the country’s food, with a further 20 percent coming from the world beyond the EU, and just 30 percent from the bloc itself.
Moreover, it is quite possible EU producers could lose much of even this share of the British market once Britain regains its powers to sign its trade agreement with countries such as Australia and New Zealand — major food suppliers before Britain joined the EU/EEC in the 1970s.
“Who is credibly suggesting, in a ‘No Deal’ scenario, that the EU would not want to continue to sell food to UK consumers [anyway]?” Raab asked rhetorically.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 23, 2018
Raab did say he thought a ‘No Deal’ would be “regrettable” and was not likely, but stressed that “a balanced appraisal [of the scenario] should recognise that there would also be some countervailing opportunities.”
These would include “immediate recovery of full legislative and regulatory control, including over immigration policy; the unfettered ability to lower tariffs [and] bring into effect new free trade deals that we negotiate straight away, and… a swifter end to our financial contributions to the EU,” he observed.
Because before 1973 there was no NHS. https://t.co/HK1GQEr86T
— Euro Guido (@EuroGuido) August 23, 2018
Remain-leaning politicians and media commentators were at pains to stress proposals to ensure medical companies have an extra six-weeks’ supply ready in the event of ‘No Deal’, characterising this as Britain “needing to stockpile life-saving medicine”.
However, this appears to be an exaggeration, with Health Secretary Matthew Hancock making it clear the measure is only intended to ensure “continuity of supply” to manage “delays at the border that may arise in the short term” if customs arrangements with the EU change.
Hancock was very firm on there being no need for clinicians to hoard medicine, and indicated that any who did so could be disciplined: “Hospitals, GPs and community pharmacies throughout the UK do not need to take any steps to stockpile additional medicines, beyond their business as usual stock levels,” he wrote in a bolded section of his letter to healthcare providers.
“There is also no need for clinicians to write longer NHS prescriptions. Local stockpiling is not necessary and any incidences involving the over ordering of medicines will be investigated and followed up with the relevant Chief or Responsible Pharmacist directly,” he added.