Brexit: Armed forces set up team in nuclear bunker to prepare for no deal outcome

Some 3,500 troops held 'at readiness' to aid in contingency plans

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 21 March 2019 20:10
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Operation Redford was activated at the beginning of the week
Operation Redford was activated at the beginning of the week

Britain’s military has set up a team in a nuclear bunker beneath the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

Some 3,500 troops were being held “at readiness” to aid in contingency plans if the UK leaves the European Union (EU) without an agreement in place, a spokesperson said.

The mission, dubbed Operation Redford, was activated at the beginning of the week. It could see the armed forces working to transport food, fuel and other essentials around the UK.

The bunker, which sits underneath the main MoD building in Whitehall, has been used by the armed forces in wartime and during responses to national disasters such as flooding.

A spokesperson for the MoD said: “We are always willing to support wider government planning for any scenario, and we have committed to holding 3,500 troops at readiness to aid contingency plans. We will consider any requests from other government departments if they feel defence capability could contribute to their no-deal planning.”

It comes as the EU looks set to offer to delay Brexit until 22 May, as long as MPs approve Theresa May’s withdrawal deal in a House of Commons vote next week.

The proposed extension is five weeks short of the 30 June date the prime minister requested on Wednesday, and it would ensure the UK is no longer a part of the EU during the upcoming European Parliament elections.

However, if MPs turn down Ms May’s agreement for a third time, several EU leaders have warned the UK could face a no-deal Brexit on 29 March.

French president Emmanuel Macron said only a short “technical” extension was available and said if MPs reject the agreement “it will guide everybody to a no-deal for sure”.

Describing the UK as being in a “political crisis”, Mr Macron said: “There needs to be a profound political change if there is to be an extension which is anything other than technical.”

Luxembourg’s prime minister Xavier Bettel compared said the negotations were "a bit like Waiting for Godot. But Godot never came so I hope this time they will come.”

He added: “At the moment, there are more non-options on the table than options."

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte also said a short delay "could be useful."

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