Brexit talks see Britain teetering on edge of no deal as supermarkets start stockpiling following minister warning

Published: 13 December 2020

Post Desk : Britain was teetering on the cliff-edge of a no-deal Brexit on Sunday, as EU and UK negotiators prepared for a final day of talks amid predictions that the chance of an agreement was as little as 20 per cent.

As the high-level negotiations go down to the wire, supermarkets have begun stockpiling food after being warned by ministers that no deal was a likely outcome.

Medical suppliers, including those involved in vaccines, have been told to stockpile six weeks worth of supply at secure locations in the UK, the Sunday Times reports.

Boris Johnson is reportedly poised to take personal control of the Government’s no-deal preparations if a trade deal is not hammered out today.

The Prime Minister is also expected to speak with EU Commison president Ursula Von De Leyen as talks resume between the UK’s Brexit negotiator Lord Frost and the EU’s Michel Brnier.

But after months of haggling, with talks still foundering on fishing quotas and so-called the level playing field “ratchet”, chances of a deal now appear slim.

A government source told the Sunday Times: “As things stand, the offer on the table from the EU remains unacceptable.

“The prime minister will leave no stone unturned in this process, but he is absolutely clear: any agreement must be fair and respect the fundamental position that the UK will be a sovereign nation in three weeks’ time.”

Speaking on Sky News on Sunday morning, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab claimed that “the EU is concerned that Britain might do rather well” in the wake of Brexit and that there was “a long way to go” in the negotiations.

If there is no deal, Mr Johnson is set to take control of planning from Michael Gove, chairing a “superXO” committee to manage the response.

This will include ensuring supplies of food and medicines. Speaking to the Sunday Times, a consultant at one of the biggest supermarkets warned that “there are likely to be shortages of vegetables for three months” in the event of no deal.

There were long queues of lorries outside Dover yesterday, which hauliers blamed on “stock-building. On Friday there were ten-mile tailbacks in Calais on the other side of the Channel.

In a move likely to incense EU leaders, a Government spokesman revealed the UK had “run live exercises” that involved scrambling “naval vessels to respond to threats of illegal fishing in our soon-to-be sovereign waters” as part of readiness efforts.

It follows confirmation from the Ministry of Defence that four Royal Navy gunboats have been placed on stand-by to guard British waters from EU trawlers if there is no agreement – an announcement that has been greeted with anger by some senior Tories.

Tory MP David Jones wrote in the Sunday Telegraph the PM “must keep faith with the British people and resist any temptation to accept a sub-optimal deal that would cheat them of the sovereignty for which they voted”.

The deputy chairman of the European Research Group added: “He should by all means negotiate, if necessary, until the stroke of 11 o’clock on New Year’s Eve; but if the EU still refuses a deal that fully respects our hard-won independence, he should leave the table in the knowledge that he has the full support of his countrymen and women.”

On Sunday morning, Conservative former minister Sir John Redwood accused the bloc of making “empty threats”.

“End the talks. The EU wants to stop us being independent. They cannot stop our trade. People and businesses buy and sell under WTO rules. The EU just makes empty threats,” Sir John tweeted.

“Will the Cabinet Office stop behaving as if it believes Project Fear scares? Tell us how we will use our new freedoms from EU exit to create a more prosperous UK.”