Ministry sets up bunker command centre for no-deal Brexit

British armed forces commit to holding 3,500 troops available to help government if needed

The underground command centre in Whitehall will act as a base of operations to deal with requests for Ministry of Defence support from other departments as well as directing the troops. File photograph: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire

The underground command centre in Whitehall will act as a base of operations to deal with requests for Ministry of Defence support from other departments as well as directing the troops. File photograph: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire

 

The British armed forces have set up a command centre in a bunker under the ministry of defence as part of contingency plans for the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Under Operation Redfold, the ministry said it had committed to holding 3,500 troops at readiness to help the government with any disruption following a no-deal departure from the EU.

The plans are part of the government’s Operation Yellowhammer preparations for the UK leaving without a deal.

It is understood the underground command centre will act as a base of operations to deal with requests for ministry support from other departments as well as directing the troops.

It is the same operations centre which was used by the ministry as a base for the London 2012 Olympics response.

A ministry spokesman said: “We are always willing to support wider government planning for any scenario, and we have committed to holding 3,500 troops at readiness to aid contingency plans.

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“We will consider any requests from other government departments if they feel defence capability could contribute to their no-deal planning.”

The ministry said requests for support would be considered under the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities principles.

Under these rules the military can be authorised to provide aid when there is a definite need to act, the armed forces are being set clear tasks and other options including “mutual aid and commercial alternatives” have been discounted.

The civil authority asking for aid must also either lack the capability or have some of the capability but not to the required scale, and the urgency of the task must require rapid ministry support.

But the principles add: “Notwithstanding the above, under exceptional circumstances, agreed usually at ministerial level, it may be necessary to waive temporarily the above criteria.”

The ministry’s preparations come amid fears Whitehall could be overwhelmed by a no-deal Brexit, according to leaked papers reported on earlier this month.

The Times said the government made the admission in a document seen by its reporters that formed part of a contingency plan called Operation Yellowhammer.

It reportedly states that in the wake of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal, for months after, the government may have to engage in a 24/7 emergency approach.

And that priorities in the event of a no-deal will be “welfare, health, transport and security of UK citizens at home and abroad, and the economic stability of the UK”.

A series of round-the-clock operation centres will come into play in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which will report into the cabinet office, the Times reported.

They were due to go live on Monday, March 18th, less than two weeks before the UK is due to leave the bloc on March 29th, and after a practice run at the end of February. – PA

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