Ferries are blocked by protesting fishing boats in Whitehall wargame preparing for no-deal

Ferries were confronted by a blockade of protesting fishing boats, care homes were shut down and a gang of bandits hijacked a vaccine shipment in a no-deal Brexit tabletop exercise. 

Post-Brexit wargame Operation Capstone also saw medicines heading for hospitals battling with mounting Covid-19 cases stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier yesterday warned there are just ‘a few hours’ left to secure a breakthrough deal.  

Fishing increasingly appears to be the biggest remaining obstacle with Emmanuel Macron is insisting that French fleets maintain previous levels of access to British waters post-Brexit. 

Operation Capstone – which was played out across Government offices last week – imagined the motorway in Dover at a standstill caused by no-deal disruption.

Ferries were confronted by a blockade of protesting fishing boats, care homes were shut down and a gang of bandits hijacked a vaccine shipment in a no-deal Brexit tabletop exercise. Pictured: Ferries in Dover this month

Ferries were confronted by a blockade of protesting fishing boats, care homes were shut down and a gang of bandits hijacked a vaccine shipment in a no-deal Brexit tabletop exercise. Pictured: Ferries in Dover this month

Ferries were confronted by a blockade of protesting fishing boats, care homes were shut down and a gang of bandits hijacked a vaccine shipment in a no-deal Brexit tabletop exercise. Pictured: Ferries in Dover this month

Post-Brexit wargame Operation Capstone also saw medicines heading for hospitals battling with mounting Covid-19 cases stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Pictured: Lorries queuing in Dover this month

Post-Brexit wargame Operation Capstone also saw medicines heading for hospitals battling with mounting Covid-19 cases stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Pictured: Lorries queuing in Dover this month

Post-Brexit wargame Operation Capstone also saw medicines heading for hospitals battling with mounting Covid-19 cases stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Pictured: Lorries queuing in Dover this month

Lorries queue to enter the port of Dover in Kent on Saturday as Christmas shopping and Brexit uncertainty spark chaos

Lorries queue to enter the port of Dover in Kent on Saturday as Christmas shopping and Brexit uncertainty spark chaos

Lorries queue to enter the port of Dover in Kent on Saturday as Christmas shopping and Brexit uncertainty spark chaos

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier yesterday warned there are just 'a few hours' left to secure a breakthrough deal. Pictured: Lorries at Dover today

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier yesterday warned there are just 'a few hours' left to secure a breakthrough deal. Pictured: Lorries at Dover today

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier yesterday warned there are just ‘a few hours’ left to secure a breakthrough deal. Pictured: Lorries at Dover today

A criminal gang tried to hijack an import of vaccines in the test, which also saw mass protest sweep the country – with both Brexiteers and Remainers getting heated.

The scenario also saw a huge care home provider close its doors due to a devalued pound and a block on hiring staff from EU member countries, The Times reports.

Two storms causing mass flooding in the north of England and an explosion on Gibraltar.

Fishing increasingly appears to be the biggest remaining obstacle to a deal with Emmanuel Macron is insisting that French fleets maintain previous levels of access to British waters post-Brexit. Pictured: Lorries at Dover today

Fishing increasingly appears to be the biggest remaining obstacle to a deal with Emmanuel Macron is insisting that French fleets maintain previous levels of access to British waters post-Brexit. Pictured: Lorries at Dover today

Fishing increasingly appears to be the biggest remaining obstacle to a deal with Emmanuel Macron is insisting that French fleets maintain previous levels of access to British waters post-Brexit. Pictured: Lorries at Dover today

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson appealed for the EU to 'see sense' over Brexit demands on fishing rights - as he admitted that No Deal will be 'difficult'. Pictured: A huge volume of lorries queued in Dover today

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson appealed for the EU to 'see sense' over Brexit demands on fishing rights - as he admitted that No Deal will be 'difficult'. Pictured: A huge volume of lorries queued in Dover today

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson appealed for the EU to ‘see sense’ over Brexit demands on fishing rights – as he admitted that No Deal will be ‘difficult’. Pictured: A huge volume of lorries queued in Dover today

Freight trucks were seen disembarking ferries at Dover Port today as Brexit uncertainty continues

Freight trucks were seen disembarking ferries at Dover Port today as Brexit uncertainty continues

Freight trucks were seen disembarking ferries at Dover Port today as Brexit uncertainty continues

The PM warned there was still a 'gap that needs to be bridged' between the EU and the UK, making clear that Brussels must 'come to the table' to help find a way through. Pictured: A winding queue of lorries entering Dover today

The PM warned there was still a 'gap that needs to be bridged' between the EU and the UK, making clear that Brussels must 'come to the table' to help find a way through. Pictured: A winding queue of lorries entering Dover today

The PM warned there was still a ‘gap that needs to be bridged’ between the EU and the UK, making clear that Brussels must ‘come to the table’ to help find a way through. Pictured: A winding queue of lorries entering Dover today

The PM has accepted that the collapse of talks and reverting to WTO terms from December 31 would be 'difficult at first' - but delivered a bullish message that the country would still 'prosper mightily'. Pictured: Lorries at Dover today

The PM has accepted that the collapse of talks and reverting to WTO terms from December 31 would be 'difficult at first' - but delivered a bullish message that the country would still 'prosper mightily'. Pictured: Lorries at Dover today

The PM has accepted that the collapse of talks and reverting to WTO terms from December 31 would be ‘difficult at first’ – but delivered a bullish message that the country would still ‘prosper mightily’. Pictured: Lorries at Dover today

But even with the series of disastrous events, ‘the system worked’, a source revealed.

They said: ‘The work of the Brexit XO committee over all these months means we have contingency plans in place for absolutely everything. 

‘This has been stress-tested to within an inch of its life, we’re ready for no-deal.’

The committee is responsible for getting ready for life after Brexit.

Operation Capstone - which was played out across Government offices last week - imagined the motorway in Dover at a standstill caused by no-deal disruption. Pictured: Lorry queues on the A20 this month

Operation Capstone - which was played out across Government offices last week - imagined the motorway in Dover at a standstill caused by no-deal disruption. Pictured: Lorry queues on the A20 this month

Operation Capstone – which was played out across Government offices last week – imagined the motorway in Dover at a standstill caused by no-deal disruption. Pictured: Lorry queues on the A20 this month 

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson appealed for the EU to ‘see sense’ over Brexit demands on fishing rights – as he admitted that No Deal will be ‘difficult’.

The PM warned there was still a ‘gap that needs to be bridged’ between the two sides, making clear that Brussels must ‘come to the table’ to help find a way through.

He accepted that the collapse of talks and reverting to WTO terms from December 31 would be ‘difficult at first’ – but delivered a bullish message that the country would still ‘prosper mightily’. 

The comments, on a visit to Bolton, came after Michel Barnier warned there are just ‘a few hours’ to secure a breakthrough.

A criminal gang tried to hijack an import of vaccines (file image) in the test, which also saw mass protest sweep the country - with both Brexiteers and Remainers getting heated

A criminal gang tried to hijack an import of vaccines (file image) in the test, which also saw mass protest sweep the country - with both Brexiteers and Remainers getting heated

A criminal gang tried to hijack an import of vaccines (file image) in the test, which also saw mass protest sweep the country – with both Brexiteers and Remainers getting heated 

The bloc’s chief negotiator told the European Parliament that the talks had reached the ‘moment of truth’ after nearly a year of desperate wrangling – and with less than a fortnight to ratify any agreement struck.

But he warned that the path to a settlement was ‘very narrow’, with Downing Street branding the EU’s stance ‘unreasonable’ and insisting no deal is still the most likely outcome despite some progress.

Fishing increasingly appears to be the biggest remaining obstacle. Mr Johnson is said to have joked to No10 officials that the Britons will be ‘eating fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner’ after the transition period ends on December 31.

Boris Johnson (pictured right on a visit to Bolton this week) is said to have joked to No10 officials that the Britons will be 'eating fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner' after the transition period ends on December 31

Boris Johnson (pictured right on a visit to Bolton this week) is said to have joked to No10 officials that the Britons will be 'eating fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner' after the transition period ends on December 31

Boris Johnson (pictured right on a visit to Bolton this week) is said to have joked to No10 officials that the Britons will be ‘eating fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner’ after the transition period ends on December 31

Michel Barnier told the European Parliament that the talks had reached the 'moment of truth' after nearly a year of desperate wrangling - and with less than a fortnight to ratify any agreement struck.

Michel Barnier told the European Parliament that the talks had reached the 'moment of truth' after nearly a year of desperate wrangling - and with less than a fortnight to ratify any agreement struck.

Michel Barnier told the European Parliament that the talks had reached the ‘moment of truth’ after nearly a year of desperate wrangling – and with less than a fortnight to ratify any agreement struck.

EU commission president Ms von der Leyen (pictured this week) is expected to speak to Mr Johnson again over the next 48 hours

EU commission president Ms von der Leyen (pictured this week) is expected to speak to Mr Johnson again over the next 48 hours

EU commission president Ms von der Leyen (pictured this week) is expected to speak to Mr Johnson again over the next 48 hours

What are the sticking points in Brexit talks? 

FISHING

The UK has insisted that it will take back control of its coastal waters from the end of the transition period.

But the EU was demanding its fleets maintain previous levels of access – with Emmanuel Macron under particular pressure from the French fishing industry.   

Initially the UK said it wanted to reclaim 80 per cent of the EU quotas from January 1.

However, Brussels suggested that only 18 per cent should be restored.

The two sides are thought to be close to a ‘landing zone’ that includes a transition period, perhaps of five or seven years. However, there is no settlement yet.

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD 

The EU has insisted the UK commits to ‘level playing field’ provisions, guaranteeing it will not undercut businesses on the continent by rolling out lower environmental standards and regulations.

State aid has emerged as a particular issue, especially as coronavirus makes swathes of the economy unviable. 

But the UK says it must regain sovereign powers to decide on rules, even though it has no plans to lower standards or warp competition by subsidising the private sector. 

It appeared this area was close to resolution before France reportedly laid down a series of extra conditions including huge punishments in the form of tariffs for breaking the rules.

Although the UK is happy with ‘non-regression’ – meaning current standards are accepted as a baseline – it has dismissed demands to obey rules made by the bloc in future.

Michel Barnier told EU ambassadors this week the UK is now willing to accept the need for a ‘rebalancing mechanism’ on rules which could resolve the row. 

GOVERNANCE

The enforcement of any deal, and who decides whether rules are broken, has been one of the flashpoints from the start.

Breaking free of the European Court of Justice was among the biggest demands of Brexiteers at the EU referendum. 

But Brussels has been pushing to keep control of the governance, as well as insisting on tough fines and punitive tariffs for breaches.  

The governance issue is heavily linked to that of the ‘level playing field’ with a breakthrough on the latter likely to pave the way for a breakthrough on the former. 

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On a visit to an OpenReach facility yesterday, Mr Johnson stressed the public voted in the EU referendum to control its own laws and waters.

‘No sensible government is going to agree to a treaty that doesn’t have those two basic things in it as well as everything else,’ he said.

‘Our door is open, we’ll keep talking, but I have to say things are looking difficult.

‘There’s a gap that needs to be bridged, the UK has done a lot to try and help, and we hope that our EU friends will see sense and come to the table with something themselves, because that’s really where we are.’

He acknowledged there would be difficult days ahead in the short term if the transition period ends on December 31 without a trade deal in place.

‘Yes, it may be difficult at first but this country will prosper mightily, as I’ve said many, many times, on any terms and under any arrangement, and I think we’ve just got to get through this period and look to all the opportunities that will open up to this country in 2021,’ he said. 

Speaking to MEPs in Brussels yesterday, Mr Barnier said he was heading straight back from the session for a ‘last attempt’ to break the impasse with the UK’s Lord Frost. 

‘It’s the moment of truth. We have very little time remaining, just a few hours to work through these negotiations in a useful fashion if we want this agreement to enter into force on the first of January,’ he said.

‘There is a chance of getting an agreement but the path to such an agreement is very narrow.’

Lord Frost said: ‘The situation in our talks with the EU is very serious tonight. Progress seems blocked and time is running out.’ 

In a call last night, the Prime Minister warned European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen he believed negotiations were ‘now in a serious situation’.

‘Time is very short and it now looks very likely agreement will not be reached unless the EU position changes substantially,’ he said.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson had ‘stressed that the UK could not accept a situation where it was the only sovereign country in the world not able to control access to its own waters for an extended period and to be faced with fisheries quotas which hugely disadvantaged its own industry’.

It is understood Brussels is pushing for an eight-year transition period that would mean the UK would not regain total control of its valuable fishing grounds until 2029. British negotiators had previously offered a three-year period.

No10 said Mr Johnson told Mrs von der Leyen ‘the EU’s position in this area was simply not reasonable and if there was to be an agreement it needed to shift significantly’.

Mr Barnier said yesterday: ‘We’re not asking more nor less than a balance between rights and obligations and reciprocity, access to our markets and access to our waters and the other way round, no more, no less.

‘It’s also obvious that this isn’t an agreement we will sign at any price or any cost.

‘I think I’ve always been frank with you and open and sincere. I cannot say what will come during this last home straight of negotiations. We have to be prepared for all eventualities.’

Lord Frost (pictured yesterday) has been locked in talks in Brussels this week as efforts to break the deadlock reach a critical moment

Lord Frost (pictured yesterday) has been locked in talks in Brussels this week as efforts to break the deadlock reach a critical moment

Lord Frost (pictured yesterday) has been locked in talks in Brussels this week as efforts to break the deadlock reach a critical moment 

In her statement last night, Mrs von der Leyen said there had been ‘substantial progress on many issues’ but that ‘big differences remain to be bridged, in particular on fisheries’.

The issue of what should happen if the two sides want to vary their standards on labour, environment and state subsidies in the future – known as the ‘level playing field’ – is understood to be close to being finalised.

However, British negotiators are still pushing back against a demand from Brussels that the European Commission should be exempted from the arrangements on subsidies.

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