Brexit: Cabinet minister fails to totally rule out martial law after no-deal withdrawal from EU

Health secretary Matt Hancock said it was not the 'focus of our attention' but admitted the government was looking at all the options

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Sunday 27 January 2019 12:44
Comments
Health and Social Care secretary Matt Hancock asked by Andrew Marr about martial law in case of no-deal Brexit

A cabinet minister has refused to completely rule out the possibility that the UK could impose martial law to stop disorder in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said it was not the “focus of our attention”, but admitted the government ws looking at all the options.

Other cabinet colleagues have argued that a no-deal Brexit must remain an option for the UK in Brexit negotiations, ahead of attempts by a group of cross-party MPs to take it off the table on Tuesday.

Speaking on BBC1’s Andrew Marr programme, Mr Hancock denied the government was specifically planning for martial law, but did not rule it out either.

“Of course government all the time looks at all the options in all circumstances," he said.

When pressed on whether ministers were considering it, he said: “Not specifically, no. It remains on the statute book, but it isn’t the focus of our attention.”

He then sought to distance himself from leaked comments in November claiming he had said he could not guarantee patients would not die in a no-deal scenario

After being questioned on the cabinet comments, he said: “Why don’t I tell you exactly what the position is. As health secretary I feel very responsible for making sure people can have unhindered access to medicines, it’s incredibly important.

“Now, if everybody does what they need to do then I’m confident that can continue and the pharmaceutical industry, who are responsible for building the stockpiles in case there are delays at the border, they have reacted so far in an exemplary manner.”

Earlier in the day, education secretary Damian Hinds and commons leader Andrea Leadsom both said the option to quit talks without a deal should be a possibility for Theresa May.

The comments from Mr Hinds in particular, seen as one of the cabinet’s strong remainers, will give little comfort to pro-EU ministerial colleagues who have threatened to resign over no deal in recent days.

Ms Leadsom targeted criticism at MPs attempting to temporarily rewrite standing orders of parliament to allow themselves to bring forward legislation to vote on instead of the government, effectively stripping Ms May of some executive power.

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