The Environment Secretary has been offered a planner by the Ministry of Defence to help ensure that shops in rural communities have enough food if a no-deal Brexit occurs. Mr Gove is currently considering the offer, and would become the first minister to employ a military planner if he were to accept. Whitehall plans could mean British people are forced to eat a “restricted diet” with less choice for consumers.
Britons could be told to change their diet in the event of a “worst case scenario”, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Contingencies will be drawn up based on a blueprint known in Whitehall as Operation Yellowhammer, which assumes “in extremis” that trade between Calais and Dover becomes severely disrupted.
According to documents seen by the paper, there would have to be a “dramatic reduction in livestock production” to ensure crops were eaten by people, rather than being used as animal feed.
It stated: “Should an extreme event (such as no access to trade) impact the UK’s access to food, UK agriculture has enough nutritious food for the vulnerable.
“However, it would be a restricted diet with less choice for consumers.
“Maximising calorie production would lead to a dramatic reduction in livestock production, with all crop production used for human food where possible instead of animal feed.”
If Mr Gove accepts the Ministry’s proposal, a planner could take up a role at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in January.
The planner is also expected to determine alternative routes into Britain for food supplies, and to execute preparatory work to ensure that rural communities are supplied.
A Whitehall source said: “This is just sensible contingency planning for a worst-case scenario. It’s unlikely to happen but it is responsible to prepare, just in case.”
Documents from Operation Yellowhammer also state that domestic agriculture would be harmed in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
It said: “UK agriculture is also reliant in imported energy, fertiliser, seeds and machinery.
“If the scope for trade was ever completely removed, domestic agriculture itself would be deprived of essential inputs.
“We have not made an assessment of the potential of UK food production to feed the population if we did not have access to critical dependencies.”
But a government source told The Telegraph it was “totally incorrect” to suggest minster’s would advise people to change their diet, adding that the UK had a “high degree of food security”.
The government has already identified sites to place huge hangars in order to stockpile food. Proposed areas include regions of Carlisle, in Scotland and on the south coast, it is claimed.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced earlier this week that thousands of soldiers were on standby to help with potential disruption from a no-deal Brexit.
Some 3,500 troops will be available to carry out tasks such as emergency engineering work and transporting supplies of food and medicine.