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Britain placing 3,500 troops on standby in case of no Brexit deal

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
A British Army soldier from a Guards Regiment stands on duty outside Buckingham Palace on February 28. Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE
A British Army soldier from a Guards Regiment stands on duty outside Buckingham Palace on February 28. Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE

Dec. 18 (UPI) -- The possibility of leaving the European Union without a deal prompted Britain to put 3,500 troops on standby Tuesday, in case there's a disruption of supplies.

The troops will include regulars and reserves "in order to support any government department on any contingencies they may need," defense secretary Gavin Williamson said. That includes engineers, mechanics and drivers. The additional troops is in addition to the 5,000 Britain usually keeps on standby to handle potential terror attacks.

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The contingency plans have been agreed to by cabinet ministers and government departments are expected to make it their main priority. The proposal also includes reserving ferry space for supplies.

"Cabinet agreed that with just over three months from our exit from the EU, we have now reached the point where we need to ramp up these preparations," a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said. "This means we will now set in motion the remaining elements of our no-deal plans. Cabinet also agreed to recommend businesses ensure they are similarly prepared enacting their own no-deal plans."

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May's spokesman said the cabinet "agreed that delivering the deal that the prime minister agreed with Brussels remains the government's top priority and our best no-deal mitigation." He said it's the government's duty to prepare for every eventuality, including a no-deal situation.

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Several government officials have raised concerns about having this much detail go into an emergency plan. Justice minister David Gauke said the added troops on standby is "not a viable option."

"The responsibility of cabinet ministers is not to propagate unicorns but to slay them," Gauke said.

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If no deal is reached on Brexit, Britain would have to scramble to pass legislation controlling immigration and trade in a matter of weeks before the scheduled exit on March 29.

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