The government has stopped all operational planning for a no-deal Brexit with “immediate effect”, it has been reported.
According to a leaked email seen by Sky News, the decision to stop preparing for what would happen if the UK crashes out of the EU was made at a meeting chaired by Cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill on Thursday.
The email, sent to staff in an unnamed “frontline Brexit department”, reportedly read: “In common with the rest of the government, we have stood down our No Deal operational planning with immediate effect.
“This morning, at a meeting chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, we agreed that the objective is to ensure we wind down our No Deal planning in a careful, considered and orderly way. This will take a few weeks.”
It comes after the European Union last night offered the UK a Brexit ‘flextension’, with the last possible date for the country to leave with a deal set at October 31.
The news about no-deal preparations has sparked anger among Brexiteers, with Steve Baker branding the move one of “sheer spite”.
“Officials have worked exceptionally hard to deliver our preparedness and deserve better,” the former chair of the ERG – a group of Brexit ultras – wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Tory MP Crispin Blunt said that – if true – the issue would be “a confidence matter for me”.
“No deal is not just a matter for [the] UK unless PM has decided to revoke,” he said.
That would be a “complete betrayal” of the 2016 EU referendum and the 2017 General Election, Blunt added.
Labour’s Darren Jones dubbed the government “a disgrace”. “We spent what £4bn, on no deal preparations?” he said.
“Is that right?” £4bn of tax-payers money preparing for something no British government could really let happen whilst our schools, hospitals, councils and police struggle on without proper funding.”
But Anna Soubry – a former Tory MP and one of the founding members of parliament’s Independent Group – welcomed the decision to stop no-deal prep.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “In light of this week’s developments, departments will make sensible decisions about the timing and pace at which some of this work is progressing given that the date we leave the EU has changed, but we will absolutely continue to make all necessary preparations.”