In Depth

Could there be riots after no-deal Brexit?

Insiders say Army bosses are stepping up emergency plans to tackle potential chaos

The British Army is reportedly drawing up plans to deploy soldiers across the country amid fears of civil unrest if the UK crashes out of the European Union without a deal.

A “well-placed Army source” told The Sunday Times that officers who usually oversee Operation Temperer, a plan to send troops to help police following a terrorist attack, have been ordered to turn their attention to no-deal Brexit preparations.

“They are focusing on how the military could help the police keep public order and on how medicines would be delivered to hospitals,” the newspaper reports.

But could a no-deal Brexit really spark civil unrest?

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has insisted that there is little reason to worry. Appearing on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show in September, Javid said: “I don’t expect a no-deal outcome but we need to prepare for all contingencies and it’s absolutely correct.

“I’m not going to go into what the situation may or may not be but I think it’s fair to say we’re preparing for all contingencies.”

The minister spoke out after a leaked document from the National Police Co-ordination Centre warned that the “necessity to call on military assistance is a real possibility” in the weeks around Britain’s departure from the EU.

“There is an expectation that crime not directly connected to Brexit will rise, as acquisitive crime will habitually rise in the event of restricted availability of goods,” the document said.

This week Simon Kempton, the operational policing lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales, told Sky News that such scenes of civil unrest was “the worst-case scenario”.

Nevertheless, many people and companies believe the threat is very real. Doug Gurr, head of Amazon UK, has said that the online retail firm has factored in such a scenario as part of their contingency planning, reports The Independent.

And Remainer Tory MP Dominic Greave has warned: “We will be in a state of emergency – basic services we take for granted might not be available.”

The Irish Times has suggested that a no-deal Brexit might see “intermittent riots” by truck drivers at Dover owing to the new system of border checks, while Belfast might be hit with major unrest over the UK’s prospective relationship with Ireland.

Meanwhile, Theresa May’s critics are claiming that the deployment of military personnel is in itself a damning indictment of the Government’s belief in its own Brexit deal.

Responding to The Sunday Times report yesterday, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said: “To hear they now believe they must plan to send troops onto the streets to keep order reveals the sheer scale of their ­incompetence and how damaging they now realise Brexit might be.”

Labour MP Alex Sobel added: “This just goes to show how unprepared the Government are for a no-deal Brexit. Putting the Army on standby is an admission of complete failure.”

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