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Great Britain

No-deal Brexit: Scores of councils say food shortages a risk if UK crashes out of EU

Scores of local councils have said a no-deal Brexit could result in food, medicine and fuel shortages in their constituencies – with many stating that crashing out without an agreement could lead to civil unrest and damage to social care.

Official documents from 63 councils uncovered by the People’s Vote campaign have revealed local authorities fear that fundamental services could suffer and others could be cut if the UK crashes out of the EU.

It follows the release of the government’s Operation Yellowhammer planning paper, which warned lorries could face delays of up to two and a half days at Dover, and that protest and public disorder would take up “significant” police resources.

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Of the councils that released their Brexit "risk registers", more than two-thirds said food shortages could grip their local area. Many also said this could lead to unchecked, contaminated food entering the supply chain.

More than half warned of medicine supplies being put at risk, while 59 per cent said fuel could also become scarce leading to a breakdown in their ability to deploy services - on top of the damage caused to the general public.

And just under two-thirds said civil unrest, increased tensions between communities and public disorder could be sparked, including Dartford council which warned of an “increase in hate crime” as the area had “always been a target” for extreme right wing groups.

Jacqui Smith, who served as home secretary under Tony Blair, said: “The concerns are not hyperbole from politicians or exaggeration by journalists.

“They are the sober assessment of public officials dedicated to the provision of key services from housing to traffic to social care to waste management.

“This is not ‘Project Fear’ so much as ‘Project Here’ because the impact on council services will negatively affect millions of people’s lives in countless different ways."

The largest cause for concern, shared by 83 per cent of councils, was labour shortages – with potentially catastrophic consequences for the systems that look after sick, elderly and disabled people.

Councils warned that maintaining social care provisions could prove difficult if EU citizens who staff them returned home, while one warned a potential influx of elderly British ex-pats from the continent could put further strain on the already beleaguered care sector.

Sutton council, in southwest London, said reliance on EU staff was “considerable” within the sector on its patch, adding “the five most-used providers in adults services have an average of 33.5 per cent employees that are EU citizens, which could potentially have a considerable impact”.

Nine councils said they feared possible disruption to the water supply.

The Independent has contacted the Brexit Department for comment.

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