Fears of panic buying at shops as no-deal Brexit looms

British police advise retailers to consider extra security measures

LONDON • British police have said they are advising retailers to consider extra security measures in case of panic-buying as the deadline for Brexit approaches without a divorce deal in place.

London's Metropolitan Police revealed they were issuing the advice in case uncertainty around Britain's exit from the EU led to a surge in people trying to stockpile goods.

"We are suggesting to retailers that they may wish to consider planning for additional security in the event that concerns about shortages of goods leads to a significant increase in customers," they said in a statement last Friday.

The message was also a bid to minimise the demands on policing that large crowds and queues might cause, the police added.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29.

A withdrawal agreement negotiated with the bloc by Prime Minister Theresa May looks set to be rejected by MPs in Parliament on Tuesday amid fierce opposition from Brexiters and Remainers.

Mrs May has insisted that could lead to leaving without a deal, a scenario that some have warned could cause chaos across Britain, including gridlock at ports.

Retailers appeared to be reacting cautiously to the police advice.

Mr James Martin, policy adviser on crime at the British Retail Consortium, said its roughly 5,000 members would work with police to keep shops running smoothly.

"Even if circumstances change, retailers are well-versed in providing effective security measures to protect customers and employees," he added.


Meanwhile, senior ministers are said to be urging Mrs May to seek help from her arch-rival - opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn - if Parliament kills her Brexit deal in the crunch vote this week.

A group of mainly pro-European ministers want Mrs May to invite Mr Corbyn to meet her for negotiations in the hope of agreeing on a joint plan, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mrs May will ask Parliament to approve the divorce terms she has negotiated with the EU on Tuesday.

Her problem is that her Conservative Party has no overall majority in the House of Commons, and scores of her own members hate the deal she has struck with the EU and have vowed to oppose it.

The Prime Minister has already pushed the crucial vote on ratifying the Brexit package back by a month in a bid to win people over.

The tactical delay seems to have failed and Mrs May now looks set for a decisive defeat.

The question is what she should do next.

If Parliament fails to agree on the terms of the divorce, Britain will be on course to lurch out of the 28-country bloc on March 29 without any new trading arrangement in place.

According to official analysis, such a chaotic split could see the pound fall as much as 25 per cent while house prices could drop by up to 30 per cent, risking a recession.

While Brexiters argue that Mrs May should go back to the EU and renegotiate the most contentious parts of the deal, most other Members of Parliament say this would be a pointless request to which Brussels would never agree.

Instead, six Cabinet ministers and two other ministers want Mrs May to find the votes she needs to get her exit deal through Parliament from the official opposition Labour Party, according to people familiar with the matter.

Another possibility being discussed by ministers is the idea of allowing Parliament to vote on different Brexit options, to test which has support.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 13, 2019, with the headline 'Fears of panic buying at shops as no-deal Brexit looms'. Print Edition | Subscribe