853 exclusive: Greenwich Council staff face being sent to petrol stations to take charge of rationing if a no-deal Brexit disrupts fuel supplies, 853 has learnt.
Local authorities across the country will bear much of the responsibility for dealing the consequences of Britain crashing out of the European Union, if a deal is not struck by the new prime minister Boris Johnson in the next nine weeks.
With Johnson’s administration ramping up preparations for a no-deal exit on 31 October, Greenwich councillors are now discovering just what it could mean for residents – and their council’s staff.
Council officers are already liaising with supermarkets and the NHS about potential shortages and drug rationing if Johnson takes Britain out of the EU without an agreement.
Its proximity to Kent – and freight routes from the European mainland – means south-east London’s boroughs are particularly exposed to any disruption caused by lorries facing controls at ports and the Channel Tunnel.
Last weekend’s leak to The Sunday Times of the Cabinet Office’s Operation Yellowhammer planning document raised the possibility of lorries having to wait two days to leave England – and the Dartford Crossing becoming blocked. This would affect fuel distribution, and in turn would cripple other river crossings and leave much of south-east London’s road network paralysed. Last year, the M26 motorway was closed to see if it could be used as a lorry park.
Among other responsibilities, Greenwich Council staff would be expected to take charge of rationing at the borough’s petrol stations, if fuel supplies were seriously disrupted.
Council officers are already talking to supermarkets about possible food shortages, while they report there are already some drug shortages as worried residents stock up on medicines. Officers are making plans for the supply and rationing of drugs if Johnson – who became prime minister a month ago after a vote of Conservative party members – crashes Britain out of the EU.
One council source told 853 that there were even worries among London boroughs that food standards legislation – much of which is derived from the EU – would not apply if there was a no-deal exit.
The level of preparation was comparable to that carried out before the borough hosted events in the 2012 Olympics, the source added. “It’s mad,” the source continued.
Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe said the council had been planning for “different Brexit outcomes in accordance with central government guidelines”.
He added: “Currently, we are working our way through a whole range of scenarios that are likely to cause issues here in Greenwich in the event of a no deal situation. These are very real risks – as highlighted in the recently leaked government papers – and include disruption to the supply of food, fuel and medicines, as well as to our road networks and ports. All of this will have a negative impact on council services and we are already considering how we can potentially redeploy resources to minimise the risk.
“All of this national preparation is costing billions of pounds and is money that could be spent on better things, such as a new hospital for our borough, fixing the social care system or addressing the issues which lead to local families needing to use local food banks in order to eat.
“No deal will have devastating consequences for local people and so our main focus remains supporting our local communities and businesses during this time of uncertainty.”
Greenwich’s preparations will have been repeated in boroughs across London, while much of the burden of keeping the capital moving if there is traffic disruption will fall to Transport for London, which controls the A2, A20, A205, Blackwall Tunnel and Woolwich Ferry. It also said it had been “working on different Brexit scenarios”.
A Transport for London spokesperson told 853: “Building on our established contingency and operational plans, we have been working with government, transport providers and the wider Greater London Authority family to prepare for a range of possible outcomes. This includes any potential disruption to fuel supplies or congestion at key transport hubs. These plans will be kept under review as part of our scenario planning to ensure that London’s transport network continues to operate effectively.”
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