Government stockpiled food and medical supplies incase UK left EU without a deal
Warehouses across the UK are reportedly “filled to the brim” with food and medical supplies after the British government stockpiled a huge hoard of goods to prepare for the possibility of a “no deal” Brexit.
The news comes as Britain, along with many other countries around the world, has been suffering shortages in stores as shoppers panic buy items in bulk amid the growing global coronavirus pandemic.
However, it appears the shortages people are seeing are simply down to the logistics of getting supplies from warehouses to store shelves due to the sudden influx in demand, rather than an actual shortage of stock.
A British truck driver has revealed that Britain’s food supply is at full capacity thanks to Brexit planning and warehouses across the country are “filled to the brim” with supplies.
Simon Paul Evans posted a video to YouTube to reveal that the government bought up extra warehouse space for food supplies as stores were concerned about the impact of a Brexit.
In 2018, amid Brexit contingency planning, the government made top-secret moves to stockpile processed food in the event of EU trade talks collapsing – to show Brussels that “no deal” was not a bluff.
The British Government imported more than £22 billion worth of processed food and drinks in the event of a no-deal Brexit and to show that Britain was ready to go it alone.
Similar stockpiles were also prepared for medical supplies amid fears of chaos at British ports in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
When the government spent billions on planning for a no-deal Brexit, that looked a remote possibility with parliament ranged decisively against it, many said it was a waste of money.
But Britain is already benefiting from the work that took place in the run-up to the two aborted exit days of March 29 and October 31 during the Brexit chaos of 2019.
As coronavirus grips the nation, government sources have revealed that in key areas the intensive contingency planning ordered by Boris Johnson is proving “one of the most useful things we have done in the last six to nine months.”
Much of the key work has taken place inside the Department for Health (DfH) and Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) – two branches of Whitehall that are most affected by both Brexit and coronavirus.
Meanwhile, across government officials who have built up crisis and contingency expertise working on no-deal planning have been immediately retasked with coronavirus work.
Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill also revealed this week that some of the 800 former employees of the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) staff have been working on coronavirus.
Panic-buying has been one of the most striking changes in behavior wrought in these early stages of the coronavirus.
But supermarkets have been clear there is no need for individuals to stockpile as they will be able to maintain supplies, even as countries like Italy and Ireland lockdown.
Part of this is due to the work done during 2019 to ensure supply chains could stand up to a no-deal Brexit amid warnings of tomato shortages and Britons being forced to eat Christmas dinners in autumn, a Defra source said.
“In terms of the resilience in their supply chains, supermarkets are very much prepared for everything that’s going to come ahead due to all the no-deal prep that was in motion,” they said.
“They have constantly been reassuring us that the food supply chain is going to be absolutely fine and it’s with a lot of prep they have been doing before.”
As part of the Operation Yellowhammer no-deal crisis planning, Defra is also understood to have done detailed research into consumer behavior and is helping retailers like supermarkets with their messaging and response as people panic buy and photos of empty shelves go viral online.
British Retail Consortium spokesperson Tom Holder said: “The BRC and our members are taking learnings from the no-deal planning as they begin to craft their messages to their customers in the wake of the spike in demand provoked by coronavirus.”
According to truck driver Evans, UK warehouses look like the government and major stores have already been “panic buying” themselves, so people don’t have to.