The government will spend billions of pounds on preparations for a ‘no deal Brexit’, in the event that Britain crashes out of the European Union.
The move is intended as a warning shot to Brussels and a signal to eurosceptic Conservative MPs that the prime minister is serious about her view that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.
It comes as Conservative backbenchers gave the prime minister until Christmas to make real progress in Brexit talks to avoid another attempt to remove her from office.
The prime minister is in need of the support of her Brexit-supporting backbenchers now more than ever, after one of her worst works following her disastrous party conference speech and the failed coup attempt.
While the preparation money will not be officially stated in the Budget, Chancellor Hammond is set to release the money in January which will be spent on technology to speed up customs checks should the UK end up having to go back to WTO rules. The government will also invest in the country’s immigration system and other IT projects.
Whitehall is already working on a new immigration system, which includes plans to face-scan European arrivals, and a customs IT system, but the extra funds will likely speed up the preparations drastically and allow other systems to be designed.
Leading Brexiteer and Justice Minister, Dominic Raab, welcomed the move, telling the BBC that “it’s right that it does because of the prime minister’s clear point of view that we need to search and hope for the best, strive for the very best outcome from these negotiations, but prepare for all eventualities.
“What we don’t do is run around advertising it demonstrably. Why? Because we want to send the right, positive tone to our EU partners.
“So we don’t go talking about what happens if we end up with no deal, but quietly, assiduously, those preparations will be in place