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By Jason Michael
ON 29 MARCH 2019 – 138 days from now, and in all likelihood without a deal, the United Kingdom will come crashing out of the European Union. One aspect of the People’s Vote campaign – the campaign for a referendum on the final deal – which few are discussing is that there may be no deal to debate. Time will simply run out on the Brussels negotiations and the UK will be out the door. This, as has been conceded by the British government, opens the way for what has been described as the “Armageddon scenario,” the worst of all possible outcomes. At the stroke of midnight on Brexit day the UK and the EU will have precisely no functioning membership treaties, understandings, agreements, or common and shared principles. This will affect everything in the present arrangement from trade policy, citizenship, and the movement of people to the practicalities of food and medicines imports, health and safety standards, and basic regulations covering everything from animal welfare to the law and human rights.
In this worst-case scenario – which is looking likelier by the day – the intercourse between British and European ports will cease. At least until a provisional set of agreements have been made, a process that may take weeks if not months, nothing will come into the United Kingdom from the continent and nothing will leave. In the event of such a total freeze, and without other agreements in operation, the UK has no more than a few days supply of the food and essential medicines – a fact stated by Malcolm Bruce, the chair of the International Development Committee in June 2013, long before Brexit was on the horizon.
Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, has said that the Armed Forces would be ready for deployment to ensure stockpiled food and medicines would reach where they needed to be in the event of this worst-case scenario, but on Sunday General Sir Nicholas Carter, a senior British Army officer, appearing on the Andrew Marr Show – in full military dress uniform, put the lie to this claim. Asked by Marr what the government has asked him to do in the event of a no deal Brexit, albeit speaking through a dry throat and coughs, Nick Carter said the Army stands ready to help in any way it can. Pressed on the Army assisting with the stockpiling of “medicines and so forth” – note that food was omitted, Carter stated emphatically: “We’re not involved in that, no.” What the British Armed Forces are involved in is, in Carter’s own words: “thinking hard about what it might involve.”
What what might involve, if not food and medicines distribution? What happens when the state is no longer able to provide the bare essentials of life to ordinary citizens? People will have money, they may even have jobs, but the supermarket shelves will be empty and medicines – including many life-saving medicines – will be in short supply. In the first instance, as is always the case, their will be a rush on shops and stores in an increasingly frantic episode of panic buying and stockpiling. The more extreme this situation gets the more likely we are to see sporadic outbreaks of public disorder and looting. As the situation worsens – over the course of hours and not days – violent crime and robbery will skyrocket, ransacking will spread, and the resources of the police – already critically depleted in much of the UK – will be utterly swamped.
By the end of day one, in such a scenario, it is altogether probable a state of emergency will be imposed on the whole of the UK. Police forces in the UK are primed to respond to major incidents in a matter of minutes. Hours after a state of emergency every major city and town will be in complete lock-down. This is a situation, as General Carter said, the British security services are always planning for – plans are already in place for an Armageddon Brexit scenario.
Policing on its own is simply not equipped to deal with a total lock-down and securitisation of some 66 million people. Police numbers in England and Wales have been falling since 2010, allowing for a maximum response of 120 thousand officers; giving a ratio of one police officer to almost 500 citizens. Faced with this, the British government would have no option but to call on the Army. Comprising of over 81 thousand regular soldiers and 27 thousand reservists, the Army lacks the numbers too, but – unlike the police – the Army is the Army. Urban warfare and the control of civilian populations – even domestic populations – are the British Army’s forte. While it may be a common misapprehension in England that the British Army has no experience on the streets of the UK, this is just not true.
Operation Banner – the deployment of British troops to the streets of Northern Ireland (part of the UK) – saw British soldiers on the streets and involved in a “dirty war” for almost thirty years. During that time it racked up a formidable reputation for shooting and killing unarmed innocent civilians, a shoot-to-kill policy, collusion with paramilitary murder squads, internment – arrest and imprisonment without trial, and innumerable war crimes and human rights violations. This skill set was subsequently put to use more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. When it comes to dealing with a civilian population – even British citizens – the British Army knows exactly what it’s about.
The use of emergency powers in the UK in the event of a no deal Brexit nightmare scenario will not look pretty. Such powers will focus on focal points of resistance, be that local communities like the Ballymurphy estate in Belfast (1971) and the Bogside in Derry (1972) or democratic institutions like the Dáil – the Dublin parliament (1919); using force of arms to bring the population to heel. This was the same playbook put into operation by the British Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will be the same or similar playbook that will be used to restore order in the UK after Brexit.
We hope things will not deteriorate to this, but we must not be naïve either. The primary concern of every police force and the military is the safeguarding of the state. Civil disorder arising from panic and food and medicines shortages, large-scale mobilisations of the public in regional breakaway and national separatist movements, and any attendant crime waves pose a serious threat to the security and well-being of the British state. Facing any of this, the British government will not hesitate to put soldiers on the streets to secure the state. This is exactly what General Carter had in mind when he was talking of thinking through what a no deal Brexit might involve. His appearance on national television – on Armistice Day, in full uniform, reminiscent of broadcasts in military dictatorships, was no accident. It was meant as a warning. You want to see more of this?, was the message, then keep it up.
British Army in Ulster
7 thoughts on “Brexit: The Nightmare Scenario”
Got a bad feeling this isn’t gonna end well.
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I have no doubt that “emergency powers” will be instigated on 30th March 2019 in the even of no deal, which is, as you say, becoming the de facto endgame.
These emergency powers will undoubtedly include the suspension of all three devolved authorities, especially the “temporary” dissolution of Holyrood. What will Scots do then? Will the majority simply accept this situation and allow the Westminster elite to ride roughshod over their democracy citing “It’s just temporary, we’re all in this together”?
Or will there be full, peaceful resistance through demonstrations, marches, etc? And if so, how long before some “agent provocateur” incites a minority to attack the Police/Army who would no doubt be there to control the “mob”? How many deaths will be acceptable as “collateral damage” on the streets of Scotland?
Or will there be widespread “revolt” against these draconian powers with consequential deaths in the order of hundreds?
We are heading for a dangerously unstable place, and for what? So a few extremely wealthy individuals can keep their wealth and sources of wealth hidden from the public? All those “fantasy” movies about a dystopian future seem to becoming true before our eyes. I believe it was Hitler who said that the way to corrupt a populace was in small steps, so by the time they realize where they are, there is nothing they can do to change the process to the outcome.
It seems there are too few of us who have enough concern about the direction of travel and unless there is some major revelation (don’t expect this to come from the MSM who are part of the problem, not the solution) we are approaching an effective dictatorship. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear the worst is yet to come.
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The Scottish government knows this – and more, I expect. I can’t imagine a scenario that lets us drift until March and Holyrood closed, without Nicola calling indyref2. I just can’t. It’d be the end of everything. Holyrood would never reopen and we’d never be independent. Not going to happen. For England & Wales however, it seems the die is cast
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While people were mockingly deriding the Tories for lack of planning at ports, the Tory Cabinet has been building the foundations of a new and very dangerous legislative framework. Think of it like a joint the dots picture….at the moment we the public only see random dots…The full impact only becomes obvious once they link them at the end.
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They will not shut down Holyrood by force. That would require Police Scotland to act against their own people , legal system and government. They would need to send in police from the Met and army personnel from outwith Scotland. They might want to shut Holyrood down , but they physically can’t.
I would fully believe that our government have plans in place for England going nuclear. If it’s a no deal we will know by January. The SNP will have an emergency referendum. They can challenge it all they wish but if the people back independence WM will not win.
We need our people to back whatever manoeuvres are necessary to protect Scotland.
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Never underestimate the extent Westminster will go to.
Chagossians / Windrush / Northern Island.