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No-deal plans are put on ice in Whitehall

Backstop talks: Iain Duncan Smith and Arlene Foster in Brussels yesterday PICTURE: PA

CIVIL servants have been told to stand down no-deal Brexit planning with ‘immediate effect’.

It is understood the decision to end the preparations — which have so far cost more than £4billion — was taken at a meeting yesterday morning chaired by cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill.

A letter from a senior Whitehall source, seen by Sky News, stated: ‘In common with the rest of government, we have stood down our no-deal planning with immediate effect.

‘This morning, at a meeting chaired by the cabinet secretary, we agreed that the objective is to ensure we wind down our no-deal planning in a careful, considered and orderly way.’

Measures taken included contacting 140,000 companies to tell them what they should do to prepare for no deal and employing more Border Force officers. But despite the efforts, business groups, including the CBI, have been warning firms were not ready for no deal. And last night, Kent Highways said it was standing down the M20 contraflow, part of Operation Brock, the system set up to deal with disruption to cross-Channel services.

The decision clearly came as a surprise to some Conservatives as new junior Brexit minister James Cleverly earlier tweeted he was going ‘to keep working on our no-deal preparations’.

Meanwhile, senior DUP politicians, along with Tories Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson, met with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier yesterday in Brussels.

Afterwards, DUP leader Arlene Foster said Europe must hear ‘the unionist voice’ on the backstop.

The DUP believes the policy would create a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Mrs Foster said Theresa May should use the six months available to her as a result of the new Brexit extension to reopen the issue.

Aldi blocked in protest by Leave group

A SMALL group of Brexiteers blocked a main road into an Aldi depot — ‘because it’s German’.

Leave supporters waving placards parked camper vans and cars to stop deliveries to the site in Neston, Cheshire.

In a video taken by a passerby, one man with a microphone is seen shouting: ‘This is Brexit at its best’.

After the protesters were spotted, people took to Twitter to warn of the disruption. One posted: ‘They have blocked the road because they “don’t want German”… with a German motorhome.’

Cheshire Police said officers attended on Wednesday and ‘spoke to all involved’.