The cat’s out the bag: Dominic Raab has caused a stir after admitting that the United Kingdom will have to stockpile food as part of its preparations for leaving the European Union without a deal, saying that there will be “adequate food” in the United Kingdom should we leave without a deal.
In reality, the onus on stockpiling will fall on retailers, just as the bulk of no deal preparation will actually be done by private agencies. But the revelation is in reality no revelation at all: the United Kingdom is nowhere near being self-sufficient in food and in the event of a collapse in Britain’s trading arrangements, food, medicines and other vital supplies would run out very quickly indeed.
The problem for Raab and for the government as a whole is that it reveals that you cannot plan for no deal without undermining support for the government’s Brexit strategy. It spooks voters and businesses alike to hear that food will have to be stockpiled – and that’s before the government has done any of the genuinely expensive no-deal contingency planning that it would need to do. Wait until the inevitable follow-up question about how the government is planning to handle panic-buying in supermarkets is raised.
Brexiteers often like to castigate May’s failure to “plan for no deal” as one of their difficulties. But the reality is that planning for no deal, if it happens in earnest, will be a major threat to Brexit’s political viability – and could in of itself reduce rather than increase the government’s freedom to manoeuvre.