Civil unrest; fuel, food and medicine shortages: Hackney Council’s emergency plans for a ‘no deal’ Brexit revealed

A file image of Kingsland Road, near the junction with Balls Pond Road. Picture: Ken Mears

A file image of Kingsland Road, near the junction with Balls Pond Road. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Hackney Council is braced for potential civil unrest and shortages of fuel, food and essential medicines if a “potentially catastrophic” No Deal Brexit ever goes ahead.

A Brexit "shadow GOLD rota" has been set up in the borough to ensure the availability of senior council officers around the clock in the weeks leading up to and after a potential exit from the EU, to respond to emergencies or serious incidents. The 'risk register' was unearthed by a Freedom of Information request from the People's Vote campaign, and lists the potential threats hanging over families, services and businesses if Britain crashes out of the European Union October 31.

Hackney is not alone, with other London boroughs having prepared similar contingency arrangements.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson lost a vote last night in Parliament by 328 votes to 301, as MPs backed seizing control of the Commons timetable to avoid crashing out on October 31.

But the threat still looms on the horizon as Johnson seeks to bring forward a motion for an early general election.

In Hackney a special organisation-wide initiative called the "UK leaving the EU project" has been created, and senior officers have attended multiple meetings to discuss the potential ramifications.

A corporate risk register published by Hackney Council in May labelled a 'no-deal' scenario as "potentially catastrophic", and the risk was deemed to have increased within the space of a few months.

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Concerns have been raised over the impact of potential increases in food and fuel prices - particularly on the poorest.

"In addition to this, anxieties remain over the supply of critical medicines to the UK, particularly those which cannot be stockpiled such as isotopes used in cancer treatments," states the council document.

In the event of a fuel shortage, the borough's designated fuel station will be secured, and access to fuel will only be provided to vehicles with a valid permit issued by the council. Doctors, waste disposal vehicles, care workers and emergency service vehicles would be prioritised.

The Civil Protection Service has made contact with both the Hackney Food Partnership and foodbank charity the Trussell Trust to establish if the council could channel funding to support the poorest to access food in the event of significant price increases.

Political unrest has been recognised as a possibility - especially in areas like Hackney which were predominantly in favour of remaining in the EU - and the council's safer communities team is monitoring the situation.

"The focus of this risk is liable to change on an almost weekly basis," council officials noted.

Problems such as the pound's increasing weakness have apparently already caused the council some clear losses in purchasing - especially ICT equipment which is bought in dollars.