Up to 1,000 defence workers could be redeployed to help the UK government cope with a no-deal Brexit, according to a memo seen by the .

The message, sent to staff in the Defence Equipment and Support agency, appeals for volunteers.

The note said it was “uncertain” what work would be required if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement.

But it said redeployment in these circumstances would offer a “real development opportunity”.

The SNP said Brexit was causing “chaos and uncertainty”, but the government said the civil service had the “flexibility to deliver”.

Defence Equipment and Support is the agency within the Ministry of Defence that supplies the Army, Royal Navy and RAF with everything from food to fighter jets.

It employs almost 12,000 civil servants and military personnel at 150 bases across the UK and abroad.

The memo, issued by senior manager Neville Parton, said up to 1,000 staff might be needed for redeployment.

He said the agency had been asked to identify volunteers “across all levels and role profiles” as part of contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit.

Six-month deployment

Mr Parton said defence workers could be needed to support other government departments and local government.

“This provides a real development opportunity to take on a fresh challenge – developing new skills and experience,” he wrote.

“It‘s currently uncertain what type of support might be required, for how long and where people might be required”.

The memo suggested any redeployment should not last for not more than six months.

The deadline for applications was 25 January – nine weeks before the UK‘s scheduled departure from the EU on 29 March.

The SNP‘s foreign affairs spokesman, Stephen Gethins, said “the chaos and uncertainty is all-consuming”.

He added: “The government wants to divert 1,000 officials away from vital work supporting our armed forces, without the slightest clue what they‘re going to be doing.

“The UK government‘s contingency planning for a no deal is the very definition of too little, too late”.

‘Departments share staff‘

The redeployment request appears to be part of wider government efforts to prepare for Brexit and a possible no-deal scenario.

There have already been reports of staff from the departments for education and international development shifting to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to help with farming and fisheries.

There will be much work to do in these areas when the UK pulls out of the EU‘s common fisheries and agriculture policies.

A government spokesperson said: “The civil service has the flexibility to deliver government priorities and deploy resource appropriately to do this.

“This includes departments sharing staff and working together on joint projects”.


Quick guide: What is a no-deal Brexit?

A "no-deal" Brexit is where the UK would cut ties with the European Union overnight without a transition period.

Theresa May's government, and many others, believe this would be hugely damaging and want a more gradual withdrawal. But if Parliament can't agree on that, and nothing else takes its place, the UK will leave without a deal.

This would mean the UK would not have to obey EU rules. Instead, it would need to follow World Trade Organization terms on trade. Many businesses would see new taxes on imports, exports and services, which are likely to increase their operating costs. That means the prices of some goods in UK shops could go up.

The UK would also lose the trade agreements it had with other countries as a member of the EU, all of which would need to be renegotiated alongside the new agreement with the EU itself.

Manufacturers in the UK expect to face delays in components coming across the border.

The UK would be free to set its own immigration controls. However some UK professionals working in the EU and UK expats could face uncertainty until their status was clarified. The European Commission has said that even in a no-deal scenario, UK travellers won't need a visa for short visits of up to 90 days.

The border between Northern Ireland and the Irish republic would become an external frontier for the EU with customs and immigration controls, though how and where any checks would be made is not clear.

Some Leave supporters think that leaving without a deal would be positive if the right preparations were made. They say criticism is scaremongering and any short term pain would be for long term gain.

But critics – including both Brexit supporters and opponents – say that leaving without a deal would be a disaster for the UK: driving up food prices, leading to shortages of goods and gridlock on some roads in the South East resulting from extra border checks.

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