Whitehall departments will step up warnings to the public over the threat of a no-deal Brexit ahead of the crunch Commons vote on Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.
Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay warned that a disorderly Brexit will be “far more likely” if MPs vote down the prime minister’s deal, as he was due to chair a meeting in Westminster of junior ministers responsible for emergency planning.
With less than three months until exit day, Mr Barclay also announced the government will start publishing guidance on how the public can prepare for a no-deal scenario, using radio and social media broadcasts to spread the message.
It comes after the government was mocked for spending nearly £100,000 on Facebook adverts to sell Ms May’s Brexit deal to the public– only for the key vote to be delayed in December over fears of a crushing defeat.
Ministers have now ramped up no-deal planning as Ms May seeks to persuade MPs that her deal is the only option to prevent a chaotic exit from the EU.
“The pace and intensity of the work we are doing reflects the potential scale of this disruption to people and businesses across the UK that a no-deal scenario could bring,” Mr Barclay wrote in the Daily Express.
“The Home Office will next week be publicising guidance on new passport rules for people travelling to many European countries.
“These rules would mean some people have to renew their passport earlier than planned. Advice is already available online and next week the Home Office will further publicise how to renew a passport as easily as possible.
“The Department for Transport is sharing guidance on how we will ensure people can continue to travel to the EU in the event of no deal, and today the medicines regulator has updated guidance to ensure regulatory processes for medicines, medical devices and clinical trials are fit for purpose.
“And, on Tuesday, we will start a new phase in our public information campaign, using radio and social media to further raise awareness.”
Pro-EU campaigners accused the government of spending taxpayers’ cash to distract “from gaping flaws in its own deal”.
Labour MP Virendra Sharma, who supports pro-EU group Best for Britain, said: ”The government has already spent hundreds of thousands pushing its Brexit agenda on social media.
“Now it wants to spend more taxpayer’s money distracting from the gaping flaws in its own deal by warning of a no deal catastrophe.
“It’s a bleak start to 2019, but there’s still time to brighten up the new year by giving the public the final say over Brexit, with the option to stay and strengthen ourselves within Europe.”