Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has been challenged by a doctor involved in Operation Yellowhammer – the government’s plan for mitigating the effects of a no-deal Brexit – over the number of people who could die if the UK crashes out of the EU on October 31.
During a call-in on LBC on Monday, Dr David Nicholl – a consultant neurologist who helped put together Operation Yellowhammer before becoming a whistleblower – asked Rees-Mogg: “What level of mortality rate are you willing to accept in the light of a no-deal Brexit?”
The question came the day after the Sunday Times revealed that doctors had warned the NHS to brace itself for the “biggest threat it has ever faced” if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, with confidential files seen by the newspaper showing lists of drugs it has been impossible to stockpile.
Meanwhile, Nicholl argued people would die due to issues with access to drugs and radioisotopes.
But Rees-Mogg said there was no reason to believe a no-deal Brexit would lead to deaths.
“I think this is the worst excess of Project Fear and I’m surprised that a doctor in your position would be fear mongering in this way on public radio,” he said.
The leader of the Commons later added: “There are reserve plans to fly drugs in if necessary. This is a major focus of government policy.
“I think it’s deeply irresponsible Dr Nicholl of you to call in and try to spread fear across the country. It’s typical of Remainer campaigners to try and you should be quite ashamed, I’m afraid.”
Over the weekend, Michael Gove – who is charge of preparation for a no-deal Brexit – was also challenged over the effects of leaving the EU without a deal.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, the cabinet minister said there “will be no shortages of fresh food” if Britain crashes out of the bloc on Halloween.
A spokesman for the body said it is “impossible to mitigate it fully as neither retailers nor consumers can stockpile fresh foods” and that its representatives had repeatedly underlined the reality to ministers.
A no-deal Brexit would be “the worst of all worlds for our high streets and those who shop there”, the BRC said.
Boris Johnson is expected to face a serious challenge to his plans for a “do or die” Brexit in October when MPs return to parliament on Tuesday, with opposition politicians expected to try and introduce legislation to ban a no-deal Brexit.