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Suffolk keeps its Brexit plans under wraps - for now

PUBLISHED: 19:00 12 September 2019

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Megicks. Picture: Ian Burt

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Megicks. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

The government has been forced to publish details of its "Operation Yellowhammer" plans for the country to cope with a no-deal Brexit - but Suffolk's public services are not yet ready to reveal details of their preparations.

Labour councillor  Jack Abbott  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNLabour councillor Jack Abbott Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Suffolk Resilience Forum - made up of public and private sector organisations involved in transport, local authorities and emergency services - has still to decide whether to give details of its plans.

However it is not expecting major shortages or civil disobedience in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Simon Megicks, chair of the Forum and Assistant Chief Constable, said: "There is a great deal of activity behind the scenes to ensure 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.

"Suffolk Resilience Forum is planning for Brexit as it does for other risks in the county. Emergency planning and business continuity is business-as-usual for the SRF.

Felixstowe is unlikely to be as badly affected by a hard Brexit as some other ports. Picture: Mike PageFelixstowe is unlikely to be as badly affected by a hard Brexit as some other ports. Picture: Mike Page

"We are told that leaving the EU with a deal remains the Government's top priority. However, a responsible resilience forum must plan for every eventuality, including a 'no deal' scenario. We are aiming for minimal disruption to our front-line services.

"We are preparing for the operational impact of a no deal Brexit. We have no intelligence to suggest a rise in crime or disorder, but we are considering worst case scenarios provided by the Government to inform our planning.

"There shouldn't be any need for members of the public to act differently or change their consumer habits."

MORE: How is Suffolk planning for a no-deal Brexit?

However the Labour opposition at Suffolk County Council felt the planning details should be published.

Labour councillor Jack Abbott was keen to see all the details published through the county council - Norfolk has already released its planning for a hard Brexit.

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He said: "The Government's own Yellowhammer report makes clear the potential repercussions of a no-deal Brexit, a scenario that could significantly impact on residents and businesses in Suffolk.

"Staffing reductions and an increase in supply costs for the adult care sector; risks of delays for HGVs, significantly impacting Felixstowe port; medicine shortfalls; illegal fishing activities; a disproportionate effect on people on low-incomes due to a rise in food and fuel prices.

"This isn't 'Project Fear' - this is the Government's own assessment and, as such, the Conservative administration at should be doing everything it can to protect our county from this disaster.

"Why are they keeping the public in the dark? Do the plans not even exist? Or do they present an inconvenient truth?"

Suffolk is likely to be heavily involved in any changes if there is a no deal Brexit.

Agriculture and food production is likely to feel any impact very quickly, and Felixstowe is the country's largest deep-sea container port.

But the majority of Felixstowe's trade is with countries outside the EU and this should not be affected by Brexit.

There is a ferry service to Rotterdam in the Netherlands - but this only carries a fraction of the trade handled by Dover with its links to Calais and Dunkirk.

Some local food producers believe Brexit could benefit them - encouraging more people to see what is grown locally at farmers' markets.

The government was forced to publish details of Operation Yellowhammer after losing a vote in the House of Commons - but has insisted the plans are for a "worst case" scenario in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

In the worst case, the document suggests the flow of cross-Channel goods could be cut to 40% of normal in the immediate aftermath of a no deal Brexit with significant reductions in trade for up to six months.

It does not expect overall food shortages - but there could a reduction in some foods leading to price increases.

The document does say there could be protests and counter-protests requiring considerable police time - and warns that an October 31 Brexit comes at the end of the school half-term which could lead to delays in some ports and airports.

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