The Brexit department has insisted that “every department” in government is planning for the exit talks with the EU to fail, despite the head of the NHS having said the health service had not been asked to prepare for a no deal outcome.
Brexit minister Steve Baker said on Wednesday all of Whitehall was preparing for “all potential outcomes” including “the unlikely eventuality of not securing a deal”.
Baker made the claim in a letter to Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a leading supporter of the pro-Remain Open Britain campaign.
Umunna had written to the Brexit department to demand clarity after Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said his department was “not planning for no deal”.
Earlier today, Chancellor Philip Hammond went as far to suggest it was “theoretically conceivable” flights could be grounded on the day the UK leaves the EU if no Brexit deal is reached.
Umunna said trying to pin down whether contingency planning was being done inside government for a no deal out come was like “trying to nail jelly to the wall”.
“Once again, this government is more interested in fighting amongst themselves and making contradictory statements than making sure we avoid crashing out of the EU with no deal,” he said.
“One day one minister says there’s no plan for no deal, the next day another minister says there is. But evidence from the head of the NHS proves that actual concrete preparations for a disastrous no-deal Brexit are woefully lacking.”
On Tuesday, Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS in England, told MPs the health service has not been asked to examine what the impact of a no deal scenario would be.
In his letter, seen by HuffPost UK, Baker said: “We recognise that a responsible government should prepare for all potential outcomes. Over the past year. every department has been working at pace to build a detailed understanding of how withdrawing from the EU will affect its existing policies and services in a wide range of outcomes and are developing plans for multiple scenarios.
“Over the next few months the extent of this planning will become clear. some plans have sufficiently long lead times that we need to begin now for them to remain viable. even though we hope not to need all their provisions once we have achieved a deal with the EU.
“The plans have been carefully developed to provide the flexibility to respond to a wide range of negotiated outcomes in addition to preparing us for the unlikely eventuality of not securing a deal.
“We are undertaking a significant amount of work to assess the economic impacts of a no deal scenario across the whole of government, to ensure that departments are prepared for a negotiated settlement and for the unlikely scenario in which no mutually satisfactory agreement can ha reached. This is part of the Government’s continued programme of rigorous and extensive analytical work, looking across a range of scenarios on a sector by sector basis.”
Theresa May slapped down Hammond today by promising to spend cash now in preparation for a Brexit no deal – just hours after the chancellor ruled out any such splurge.