Govt working to ensure NHS can ‘operate fully’ in event of no-deal Brexit

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The health secretary has said efforts are under way to ensure medicines remain available in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Matt Hancock’s confirmation of the preparations followed reports that senior figures are examining ways to reboot the economy if the UK leaves the European Union without an agreement in place.

According to the Financial Times, officials from the Treasury, Cabinet Office, business and trade departments are meeting with the head of the civil service to develop emergency plans as part of an initiative called “Project After”.

The newspaper reports that options explored by the group have included cutting taxes, boosting investment and slashing tariffs – with one Whitehall source describing it as a “Doomsday list of economic levers we could pull if the economy is about to tank”.

Mr Hancock told Sky News he would not comment on leaks, but confirmed economic plans have been under way for some time.

He said: “We don’t want to leave with no deal but we will have to respond if we do.

“In my area, this means making sure the NHS can operate fully and people get access to medicine.

“That’s not just a problem for us but on continent too. In the last 24 hours, my Dutch counterpart has said he is worried about this and is taking action as we are.

“This shows us why its important for the EU side to move so we can get a deal that can be agreed.

“There will be a response on the economic side, and we have known this for some time. Mark Carney addressed the cabinet months ago.”

On Friday, Norway’s government proposed legislation to try and secure the rights of its citizens living in Britain, and of Britons living in Norway, as the clock ticks down to 29 March.

Theresa May is in Ireland today to meet with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in an effort to come to an agreement over the backstop.

The backstop – a customs plan to avoid a “hard” border between Ireland and Northern Ireland if a Brexit deal is not reached – remains the main stumbling block in Mrs May’s plan to take the UK out of the European Union.

The Irish leader is to meet with the main political parties in Belfast before he has dinner with Mrs May.

Meanwhile, the government is preparing for what will happen in Kent after Brexit with the implementation of Operation Brock.

Over the weekend, a temporary steel barrier will be installed on the M20 which will be in place to help queue lorries heading for mainland Europe from the UK while allowing other traffic to flow more freely along the motorway.

Brock is an update to the previous measures in the region – known as Operation Stack – which helped manage traffic when there were strikes at the French ports.

As Mrs May continues to battle for her Brexit deal, and the EU looks into Labour’s proposals, Mr Hancock said MPs should back the prime minister to get a deal through before the end of the Article 50 period.

Article 50 is the clause which allows countries to leave the EU, and the two-year period to come up with replacement deals ends on 29 March.

Mr Hancock told Sky News: “The best way through this is to follow what the Commons voted for – supporting the prime minister’s deal with assurances we won’t be stuck in the backstop forever.

“That’s what she has been fighting for and she’s got dinner this evening with Leo Varadkar.

“There was an important move from the Europeans, they said they would reopen discussions. They will have their red lines and we are clear about what we want to see.

“That is an important move after they said they would not reopen talks.”

(c) Sky News 2019: Govt working to ensure NHS can ‘operate fully’ in event of no-deal Brexit

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