'Don't panic buy!' Norfolk's no-deal Brexit strategy revealed
PUBLISHED: 14:21 27 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:03 27 August 2019
Norfolk's plans to cope with a no-deal Brexit reveal fears for food choice and medicines, disruption to care services and staff having to cancel holidays, but authorities insisted there was no need to worry.
The Norfolk Resilience Forum (NRF), led by the county council, has been meeting every two weeks since January to reduce the impact on Norfolk of Britain leaving the EU without a deal on October 31.
A county council report, released on Tuesday, sets out over 20 pages the risks and what councils, police and the NHS in Norfolk are doing about them.
Called EU 'No Deal' Exit Strategy, it repeats national warnings about shortages of food choice and medicines, civil unrest and 30-mile queues at ports.
It also warns that those on the lowest incomes would be hit hardest by rising fuel and food prices.
On food supplies it said: "Will be outside UK growing season and head towards busy Christmas period for food. Likely to be restricted products in supermarkets, caused by panic buying. Price may increase leading to food poverty/impact on vulnerable."
In terms of public order it warns of "spontaneous protests" both for and against Brexit which could lead to more pressure on police and even the military.
The government dismissed as old similar fears two weeks ago when a leaked civil service report called Operation Yellowhammer warned of "meltdowns" at ports and food shortages. Cabinet minister Michael Gove said the report was the worst case scenario.
But the council document, dated August 21, repeats some of those fears.
It says the main risks to the county council are its use of EU staff, disruption to care provision and food supply chains for schools and care homes.
Staff holidays could also be cancelled to cope with the impact of no-deal.
Labour leader Steve Morphew said the plan was "very light on detail" and needed "more than fine words".
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And Ed Maxfield, leader of the Liberal Democrats at County Hall, accused the council of being "complacent" over its no-deal preparations.
"I get no sense of urgency and no sense of leadership from Norfolk County Council's preparations," he said. "The officer in charge of preparations is currently on holiday and there has been silence from the council's political leadership."
The strategy adds the public should not panic buy fuel or food and authorities should reassure the public that Brexit will have "minimum disruption on [name of organisation] as we are well prepared or areas of identified risk, including a no-deal scenario".
"The NRF is committed to minimising disruption and ensuring a smooth transition out of the EU for all partners, and ultimately the people of Norfolk," it reads.
It adds: "There's no need to worry about Brexit here in Norfolk. We've been working closely with our partners to make sure we're fully prepared for any outcome. There's no need for you to act any different or change your consumer habits.
"We can't influence what happens, but we can respond positively."
A county council spokesman added: "We have prudent plans in place to ensure that, if Brexit leads to any short-term disruption, we minimise the impact on our services to the people of Norfolk."
But Mr Maxfield said: "Government efforts are nothing short of a joke. Last week they told us they are giving Norfolk County Council £87,500 to fund Brexit preparations. Norfolk County Council is a £1 billion a year organisation. What are they supposed to do with £87,500?"
He also warned of huge risks in the health and care sector in terms of both supplies and staff.
Mr Morphew also said he was worried about the impact on vulnerable people.
He said: "We want to be sure that whatever happens they can receive the medicine and care they need, the food and fuel essential to everybody as winter draws in and that transport is functioning so vital services and lifelines continue to operate."
Similar no-deal preparations are also being drawn up in Suffolk.
Chris Bally, deputy chief executive of Suffolk County Council, said: "There continues to be a great deal of activity behind the scenes to ensure that Suffolk is as well-placed as it can be to deal with the challenges and opportunities that arise from the UK's exit from the EU."