Brexit: Theresa May tells public not to worry about plans to stockpile food and medicine in event of no deal

'I would say that people should take reassurance and comfort....let's prepare for every eventuality'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 25 July 2018 16:41 BST
Theresa May dodges question on stockpiling ahead of Brexit

Theresa May has urged the public not to be “worried” by her government’s plans to stockpile food and medicine to prepare for a no deal Brexit.

The prime minister sought to play down the growing controversy over planning for the threat from crashing out of the EU without an agreement – insisting people should take “reassurance and comfort”.

This week, ministers have lifted the lid on plans for ensuring food, medicines and blood will still be available after exit day next March.

Interviewed by Channel 5, Ms May confirmed that plans for stocking up on essential goods are underway – in case imports from the EU are cut off by clogged ports, or regulatory disputes.

But, asked it was “alarming” for people, the prime minister said: “Far from being worried about preparations that we are making, I would say that people should take reassurance and comfort from the fact that the government is saying we are in a negotiation, we are working for a good deal.

“I believe we can get a good deal, but, it’s right that we say – because we don't know what the outcome is going to be – let's prepare for every eventuality.”

She added: “This is not just about stockpiling. That concept, what it is, is about making sure that we will be able to continue to do the things that are necessary once we have left the European Union, if we leave without a deal.”

Ms May's comments came as a new poll suggested trust in her ability to handle Brexit is plunging.

A Guardian/ICM poll gave her an eight-point lead over Jeremy Corbyn over who could be trusted to negotiate a good Brexit deal – down from 16 points in January and 34 points before the 2017 general election.

Earlier, the Irish government dismissed the UK’s threats of a no-deal Brexit if necessary as “bravado”, insisting the damage to the UK would be too great.

Simon Coveney, Dublin’s deputy prime minister, instead urged Britain to delay Brexit if the talks remain deadlocked – offering to press for an extension to the Article 50 deadline.

“I have heard a lot of comment on this issue in recent weeks and, to be honest with you, I think some of it is bravado,” Mr Coveney said.

“The truth is that I don’t believe Britain can afford to have no deal on Brexit. I don’t believe that Ireland and the EU want that either.”

The government will issue a series of “technical notices” in the coming months, designed to prepare the public and businesses for the worst-case scenario of leaving without a deal.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned the overall UK economy would suffer far more than the EU’s - losing 4 per cent of national output, compared with 1.5 per cent across the Channel.

Asked if the Irish government would push the rest of the EU to extend Article 50, to avoid a no deal next year, Mr Coveney replied: “Absolutely.

“If Britain asks for more time, and if that’s necessary to get to a sensible agreement, then we would support that - of course we would.”

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