Brexit: Govt preparing to enter ‘very high readiness mode’ for no deal

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The armed forces have activated a team in a nuclear-proof bunker under the Ministry of Defence as the government prepares next Monday to enter “very high readiness mode” for a no-deal Brexit, Sky News can reveal.

Control of overall planning for the impact of the UK leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement next week shifts from the Cabinet Office to the government’s emergency committee Cobra.

There will be near 24-hour manning of critical departments most at risk from Brexit disruption.

Teams in situ in the Cabinet Office and the departments for health, transport and defence will be primed to divert resources or deploy manpower where required, a government insider told Sky News.

The military’s crisis management operation – dubbed Operation Redfold – was mobilised at the beginning of this week.

It will direct some 3,500 military personnel who have been put on standby to help the government if required in the event of disruption following a no-deal departure from the EU.

Troops from Monday will ready to be deployed at a day’s notice as the government lays the groundwork for a possible no-deal exit at the end of next week.

The Redfold mission is the military dimension of the cross-Whitehall no-deal contingency preparations, called Operation Yellowhammer.

The armed forces could be used to help transport food, fuel and other goods into and around the country. A 200-strong team of military personnel is ready to drive fuel tankers to petrol stations if required.

Military bases could also be used to park lorries and other vehicles backed up at ports if there are delays with customs checks at the borders.

The nuclear-proof bunker, called Pindar, is deep underground, beneath the MoD’s main building in Whitehall. It is the facility used by the armed forces at a time of war or national emergency.

It is also known as the defence crisis management centre.

The MoD already had some 100 military planners helping with no-deal Brexit planning at other departments, including the Cabinet Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The Redfold crisis team comprises highly skilled military personnel and civilians, according to defence sources.

A spokesman for the MoD said: “We are always willing to support wider government planning for any scenario, and we have committed to holding 3,500 troops at readiness to aid contingency plans.

“We will consider any requests from other government departments if they feel defence capability could contribute to their no-deal planning.”

The spokesman added that any requests for assistance would be considered under so-called Military Aid to Civil Authorities principles.

Sky News revealed in January that preparing for a no-deal Brexit is the “highest priority” of the MoD.

A number of war games have been conducted to help ready commanders for dealing with a range of possible eventualities in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In addition, military chiefs have already spent at least £23m on stockpiling food, fuel, spare parts and ammunition at bases overseas and at home in case supply lines are disrupted.

(c) Sky News 2019: Brexit: Govt preparing to enter ‘very high readiness mode’ for no deal

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