Sat 15 August 2020

Snow has shut schools, emptied supermarkets and left motorists stranded. A glimpse of what No Deal Brexit might bring? You ain’t seen nothing yet, says Otto English.

Last night my sister-in-law went to the supermarket to get some bread, only to find that it had all sold outNot a single flake had fallen in the rural town where she lives, but everyone was already panic buying in anticipation of the coming snow. Similar stories were trundled out on social media. In some places, there were reports of shops running out of basic essentials altogether.

The BBC weather and evening news advised us to make “only essential travel” and to avoid going out after nine pm.

When the snow finally came – light as it was in many places – bedlam ensued. Flights were cancelled. Hundreds of schools closed. Southeastern trains initiated its ‘winter timetable’ despite there being little more than a light dusting in the region.

Saying you can have a “managed no deal Brexit” is like saying you can have a “managed” car crash.

Seemingly oblivious, Leave MPs and hard Brexiters have been busy across the media networks all week telling us reassuringly that there is “nothing to fear” from a “managed” ‘no deal’ Brexit.

‘Everything will be fine’ seems to be the Brexit mood-music – because our ancestors survived the Great Plague and Dunkirk and the Battle of Agincourt. Well, maybe they did, but a modern country that struggles to deal with a few inches of snow is unlikely to handle the chaos that inevitably happens when major supply chains go down.

And then there’s that irritating “managed” bit. Saying you can have a “managed no deal Brexit” is like saying you can have a “managed” car crash on the fast lane of the M2. It’s reckless gibberish.

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‘No deal’ is not like running out of biscuits. It means quitting the EU and its institutions with which we have been inexorably wed for 45 years with no agreements in place on trade, security, medicine, law, citizens’ rights, food safety or border control.

‘No deal’ means millions of EU citizens living in the UK and 1.3 million Britons in the EU being consigned to limbo. The EU is our biggest trading partner. It supplies a third of our food and more than half of our fresh fruit and vegetables.

If basic essentials run out when there’s a bit of snow, imagine the impact if all our ports shut down. There would be civil disorder. The Government knows that, which is why it has stockpiled food and medicine and put the army on standby.

But, despite being wholly cognisant of the danger, May refuses to take ‘no deal’ off the table, opting instead to play chicken with the country only to placate a few angry backbenchers.

The UK is skating across thin ice with a drunk at the wheel. This isn’t a game or a difficulty that can be dismissed with reassuring words and Nigel Farage’s Rothman-infused laugh.

It’s time for the lucid members of our ruling class to face up to the coming disaster and pull the handbrake hard – and buy us time before we disappear beneath the ice.

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