Leaks expose UK and EU government plans for military deployment in Brexit crisis
29 January 2019
The Sunday Times has reported that the Conservative government is planning for the possible imposition of martial law as a result of the deepening crisis over Britain’s exiting the European Union (EU). The Daily Mirror reported that the EU is anticipating violence on the streets and decades of political instability.
The Sunday Times report is based on leaks from the Cabinet Office. It states that top civil servants in Whitehall have been “gaming a state of emergency and even the introduction of martial law in the event of disorder after a no-deal Brexit” (leaving the EU with no trade deal agreed).
Robert MacFarlane, the deputy director of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat, is identified as being involved in discussions on the use of powers “to deal with national emergencies such as acts of war and terrorism”—part of no-deal contingency planning known as Operation Yellowhammer.
Top civil servants would use the sweeping powers embodied in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, introduced by the Labour government of Tony Blair.
“Curfews, bans on travel, confiscation of property and, most drastic, the deployment of the armed forces to quell rioting are among the measures available to ministers under the legislation,” the newspaper writes. “They can also amend any act of parliament, except the Human Rights Act, for a maximum of 21 days.”
The pretext for the Civil Contingencies Act was the Blair government’s assertion that previous emergency legislation had been proved inadequate—in events such as the severe flooding of 2000 and the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001, but also more generally in waging the so-called “war on terror” after the…