UK prime minister Theresa May has promised that she will return to Brussels to fight for a Brexit deal, but as the March 29 deadline approaches, her people don’t seem particularly hopeful. Families, companies, and even royals have started preparing for a hard Brexit, turning to many of the practices and crisis plans they used in historic times of war.
Some are anticipating a shortage of groceries and other staples, if the supply chain is disrupted because of customs delays and gridlock generated by the change in existing customs protocols. Facebook groups and other forums have sprung up where Brits are exchanging tips on what to stockpile. And at least one company is marketing a £300 ($400) “Brexit box” filled with fire starter gel, a water filter, and about 100 freeze dried meals (in flavors such as chicken tikka and mac and cheese).
The same is true of medications: Some treatments might become harder to get or temporarily scarce, including some cancer medications thus far acquired by the UK as part of the EU, and patients—in particular those in need of constant access to lifesaving treatments, such as insulin—are doing what they can to gather an emergency stock.
Companies, particularly foreign ones, are not likely to wait around and see what a post-Brexit Britain looks like. A German machine-tool maker, Heller Maschinenfabrik GmbH, has had a complex plan in place for months, involving pre-booked ferry spots, secret truck routes, and readied extra storage. The Dutch health technology company Philips has announced the closure of UK operations (and loss of 400 jobs) in 2020; Nissan has halted a plan to build a new factory in Sunderland; and Dyson, Sony, and Panasonic are moving to Europe. Companies such as Haribo, Burberry’s, and even Airbus have warned that despite their large presence in the country, they might leave after Brexit, and overall about one in three British businesses are expected to move abroad.
Perhaps the symbolically most powerful signal, however, is a plan to save the queen—quite literally—in case of a hard Brexit and accompanying civil unrest. According to two reports from British newspapers, plans to get the Queen and the royal family out of London have been repurposed from the Cold War, Reuters reports. The plan in case of Brexit-fueled riots is modeled after 1962’s Operation Candida, which was developed after the Cuban Missile Crisis in the event of a missile attack from the Soviet Union.