brexit: rubbishy uninformative 8-page planning document leaked

Leaked Brexit planning memo offers no new guidance for departing EU
Nick Hopkins, Groan, Oct 7 2019

Brexit planners say they have been left frustrated and despairing after receiving a confidential eight-page memo from Whitehall that gives no new details or specific guidance about how the UK is preparing for its departure from the EU. The document, leaked to the Guardian, states the “UK will be leaving the EU on Oct 31 whatever the circumstances,” but acknowledges there is still a mountain to climb to prepare people and businesses for a potential no-deal Brexit. Though time is running short, the memo makes clear that the government is not yet ready to share its latest “reasonable worst case scenarios” to help local emergency planners to focus their resources. It admits that only half the population think the UK will actually leave the EU at the end of this month, 42% of small businesses “are unsure of how they can get ready” and less than a third of the British public have “looked for information on how to prepare for Brexit.” It says the government “will ramp up activity for key target audiences,” but doesn’t say when. The “not for publication” document was sent on Sep 26 to council leaders and the heads of 38 local resilience forums, which are supposed to help communities prepare for the fallout from a no-deal Brexit. But the lack of detail has left many planners exasperated and fearing the government does not want to tell LRFs its main concerns, for fear they may stoke public concern about the effects of leaving the EU without a deal. a senior source said:

At a point when the government needed to be straight about the potential problems, they are hunkering down and keeping secrets. People need information now, not later. Time is desperately short, and we are still being kept in the dark. What are we supposed to be planning for? We need to know the potential impacts, but they haven’t told us what to look out for. We cannot make plans if they don’t tell us. It’s all political smoke and mirrors. This document indicates the government has no grasp on the details of the response.

Another source said:

Mixed messages from the government and lack of clarity from ministers are making emergency planning on the ground incredibly difficult. There is a sense of frustration. Everything is getting more and more complicated. We still don’t know what the hell is happening. Nobody does. Nothing has been ironed out.

The Local Government Association said its members were working “tirelessly” to prepare for the end of October, but that they needed more guidance from the centre. Kevin Bentley, chairman of the LGA’s Brexit taskforce, said:

There remains information and advice gaps that councils are facing while helping their communities prepare, which need to be met by the government. Councils also need certainty to plan for their communities over the longer term, such as on the domestic replacement for EU funding.

The document was prepared by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MCHLG) and is titled “HMG Top Lines.” Though it was prepared by civil servants, it begins by stating categorically:

The UK will be leaving the EU on Oct 31 whatever the circumstances. If it is not possible to reach a deal we will have to leave with no deal. The government is committed to preparing for this outcome. We are better prepared than many think but not as well prepared as we can be. We will ensure that there is as little disruption to national life as possible, whatever the circumstances after Brexit. With the kind of national effort our people have made before and will make again, we believe that is possible… (We are) undertaking a review of the reasonable worst-case scenario planning assumptions and will publish the revised version in due course.

Aside from the lack of detail or explanation about how this would be achieved, some planners are said to have been riled by the language being used, saying it seemed overtly and unnecessarily political given it was prepared by civil servants rather than ministers. Whitehall sources said it was drafted to give emergency planners an insight into government thinking. A spokesperson for MCHLG said:

We don’t comment on leaks. We’re working very closely with local resilience forums to support them in their preparations to ensure we will be fully ready for Brexit on Oct 31, whether we leave with or without a deal.

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