Martin Plaut

Journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa

Britain

Warning from Britain’s top civil servant of the consequences of a no-deal Brexit

I am distinctly reluctant to blog an article from the Daily Mail, but this is really worth reading. I have stripped out the adverts and some pictures, but it is otherwise unchanged.

These are the key points:

Extracts from Sir Mark Sedwill’s letter to ministers which warns of dire consequences including direct rule in Northern Ireland if Britain leaves with No Deal

Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill (pictured) says leaving the EU without a deal would hamper the police and security services and lead to the return of direct rule in Northern Ireland

Sir Mark’s 14-page letter warns:

  • No Deal would result in a 10 per cent spike in food prices and the collapse of some businesses that trade with the EU;
  • The Government would come under pressure to bail out companies on the brink;
  • It would hamper the ability of the police and security services to keep people safe;
  • It would lead to the reintroduction of direct rule in Northern Ireland for the first time since 2007;
  • A recession will hit the UK and the pound’s depreciation will be ‘more harmful’ than in 2008;
  • Our legal authorities and judicial system would be put under ‘enormous pressure’.

Martin


Top mandarin’s bombshell No Deal warning: Food up 10%, police unable to protect public, direct rule in Ulster, worse recession than 2008 says leaked letter

  • Sir Mark Sedwill’s letter to ministers warns of the dangers of a No Deal Brexit, including in Northern Ireland
  • It comes with Parliament still in deadlock after the Commons rejected all four alternative Brexit plans again  
  • Theresa May will today chair a marathon Cabinet meeting, as Tory MP Nick Boles dramatically quit the party 

Britain’s highest-ranking civil servant has issued a doomsday analysis of how the country would be affected by a No Deal Brexit, as MPs yet again failed to break the deadlock last night.

The House of Commons rejected all four alternative Brexit plans in another series of votes last night, leaving Britain with no clear plan just 10 days before a possible cliff-edge exit.

MPs rejected a customs union and a Norway-style agreement, dealing a blow to Remainer hopes of a soft Brexit, and also voted against a second referendum.

The customs union plan proposed by longstanding Tory Europhile Kenneth Clarke was closest to victory – losing by just three votes, 276 to 273.

But MPs have now rejected 12 ‘indicative vote’ motions and approved none, after trouncing Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement three times.

Moments after last night’s results emerged, Tory MP Nick Boles dramatically announced he was leaving the party, slamming his former colleagues for their failure to find a compromise.

Sir Mark’s bombshell letter to ministers, extracts of which have been leaked to the Daily Mail, comes ahead of a five-hour Cabinet showdown today.

In the letter, the Cabinet Secretary says leaving the EU without a deal would hamper the police and security services and lead to the return of direct rule in Northern Ireland.

Theresa May (pictured leaving the House of Commons last night) will marathon five-hour meeting in No 10 today to thrash out the Government’s next moves

 

Extracts from Sir Mark Sedwill's letter to ministers which warns of dire consequences including direct rule in Northern Ireland if Britain leaves with No Deal

Extracts from Sir Mark Sedwill’s letter to ministers which warns of dire consequences including direct rule in Northern Ireland if Britain leaves with No Deal

Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill (pictured) says leaving the EU without a deal would hamper the police and security services and lead to the return of direct rule in Northern Ireland

Sir Mark’s 14-page letter warns:

  • No Deal would result in a 10 per cent spike in food prices and the collapse of some businesses that trade with the EU;
  • The Government would come under pressure to bail out companies on the brink;
  • It would hamper the ability of the police and security services to keep people safe;
  • It would lead to the reintroduction of direct rule in Northern Ireland for the first time since 2007;
  • A recession will hit the UK and the pound’s depreciation will be ‘more harmful’ than in 2008;
  • Our legal authorities and judicial system would be put under ‘enormous pressure’.

Theresa May has summoned her Cabinet for a marathon five-hour meeting in No 10 today to thrash out whether to switch to a soft Brexit, leave without a deal next week or trigger a general election or second referendum.

The career diplomat with two plum roles

Sir Mark Sedwill combines roles as both Britain’s top civil servant and Theresa May’s national security adviser.

Last October, he was appointed Cabinet Secretary by the Prime Minister after Lord Heywood retired through ill health.

In an unprecedented move, Mrs May allowed the 54-year-old to retain his existing role as national security adviser.

She cited the Government’s crisis over Brexit to justify installing her long-standing lieutenant without a formal recruitment process. It was unclear if this was a temporary arrangement.

But in February, Sir Mark said his role had been permanently merged with his security brief to help ‘make a success of Brexit’.

Sir Mark was Mrs May’s permanent secretary at the Home Office from 2013 until she entered Downing Street in 2016. Before then his area of expertise had been in foreign policy.

He started his diplomatic career at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1989 and was posted to Egypt, Cyprus and Pakistan before becoming private secretary to foreign secretary Jack Straw be-fore the 2003 Iraq war, and ambassador to Afghanistan in 2009.

The session will begin with a three-hour meeting of the ‘political Cabinet’, during which ministers will discuss the political risks and consequences for the Tory Party.

But Sir Mark’s letter warns that No Deal would have wider consequences for the UK’s economy, security and constitution.

It was sent to every member of the Cabinet last week. It is understood ministers asked for Sir Mark’s assessment to ensure they were complying with their duty to govern in the national interest.

The letter will now be kept in the Government’s files and could be released in the event of a public inquiry into the handling of Brexit.

Sir Mark, who also serves as the Government’s national security adviser, warns that No Deal would affect our security services. ‘Our national security would be disrupted,’ he says. ‘The UK would forfeit access to criminal justice levers. None of our mitigation measures would give the UK the same security capabilities as our current ones.

‘A No Deal exit would enormously increase pressure on our law and security authorities and on our judicial system. The UK would be less safe as a result of this.’

Sir Mark warns No Deal could lead to the break-up of the UK, saying: ‘The stability of the union would be dislocated.’

He says Northern Ireland would face ‘more severe’ consequences, particularly as the lack of devolved government would require direct rule from London.

‘The running of Northern Ireland under No Deal is a sensitive issue,’ he says. ‘The current powers granted to the Northern Irish Secretary would not be adequate for the pace, breadth or controversy of the decisions needed to be taken through a No Deal exit. Therefore we would have to introduce direct rule.’

Tory MP Nick Boles sensationally resigned from his party and crossed the floor after the votes were announced – blaming the Conservatives refusal to compromise for the failure to find a way forward

One source said Sir Mark’s warning on the union had convinced Mrs May she could not risk taking the UK out without a deal.

The letter says the Government does not expect the banking system to crash. But it warns firms heavily involved in trading with the EU could ‘struggle to get credit’.

Sir Mark goes on: ‘There would be enormous pressure on the Government to bail out companies on the brink.’

In a separate letter to Mrs May, 170 Tory MPs, including ten members of the Cabinet, have urged her to take us out of the EU next week even if she can’t get her deal through. Andrea Leadsom, Steve Barclay, Penny Mordaunt, Geoffrey Cox, Gavin Williamson, Brandon Lewis, Sajid Javid, Liz Truss, Chris Grayling and Alun Cairns are understood to be warning her it would be better to leave without a deal than switch to a soft Brexit.

Miss Truss said: ‘I think we are well-prepared for No Deal. I don’t have any fear of No Deal.’

Mr Grayling, Mr Javid and Mr Williamson also warned yesterday against pursuing a soft Brexit option such as a customs union.

MPs rejected the deal for a third time last Friday by 58 votes. Ministers will today discuss the idea of bringing back it for a fourth attempt, possibly on Thursday.

But with the DUP making it clear it will never back the deal, hope is fading that it can be passed before Britain is due to leave on April 12.

If the deal is not passed, Mrs May will travel to an emergency Brussels summit on April 10, where she will either have to request a lengthy delay to Brexit or inform the EU she has opted for No Deal.

Downing Street declined to comment on Sir Mark’s letter.

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