Sunday Times Report:The Queen and other senior royals will be evacuated from London in the event of riots triggered by a no-deal Brexit, under secret plans being drawn up by Whitehall.
Emergency proposals to rescue the royal family during the Cold War have been “repurposed” in recent weeks, as the risk continues to rise of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal before next month’s deadline.
The plans, which were originally intended to be put into action in the event of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union, would see the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh moved out of London to a secret location, which The Sunday Times has agreed not to disclose.
“These emergency evacuation plans have been in existence since the Cold War, but have now been repurposed in the event of civil disorder following a no-deal Brexit,” a Cabinet Office source told The Sunday Times.
The disclosure comes as Westminster is gripped by uncertainty. Fears mounted over a no-deal Brexit last night amid claims Nissan is preparing to abandon plans to build the new version of the X-Trail SUV, one of its flagship vehicles, at its Sunderland plant.
The speculation cast further gloom over the embattled car industry about a no-deal Brexit.
Cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill has ordered civil servants to plan for a June election to “cement” Theresa May’s position. An opinion poll in The Observer last night put the Conservatives on 41% to Labour’s 34%. It also revealed that public approval of Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the Brexit negotiations had fallen to a new low of just 16 per cent, from 18 per cent two weeks ago.
The Sunday Times can also reveal today:
● Eight remainer Tory and Labour MPs are in secret talks about forming a breakaway party, with at least one Labour MP planning to resign the whip on Valentine’s Day
● The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has privately lobbied MPs about a second referendum.
The sticking point in negotiations between London and Brussels remains the Irish “backstop”, an insurance policy to prevent the return of a hard border in Ireland that would lock Britain into an indefinite customs union with the rest of the EU.
Writing for The Sunday Times today, Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney makes his strongest intervention to date as he claims there are “no credible alternative arrangements” and warns May she is risking the peace process.
“There is a deal on the table, and walking away from it will have serious consequences for us all,” he adds.
With just 54 days to go until the UK is due to leave the EU, civil servants are now ramping up no-deal planning, including contingency plans for the royal family.
This is understood to have included discussions between Scotland Yard and at least one regional police force.
“If there were problems in London, clearly you would remove the royal family away from those key sites,” said Dai Davies, the former head of royal protection at Scotland Yard. “Where and how they will evacuate them is top secret and I can’t discuss it.
“This is a measure that is extremely unlikely to come to pass. [But] the powers-that-be need to have contingency plans for any eventuality.”
A government source said the evacuation plans had been “dusted off” for the sake of “sensible planning”.
“The decision to evacuate members of the royal family is based on whether or not their safety is compromised,” the source said. “But right now we have no concern about their safety.”
Originally codenamed Operation Candid, plans were drawn up for the Queen to be evacuated to sea on the royal yacht Britannia if the Soviet Union launched a nuclear attack.
After the royal yacht was mothballed in 1997, the plans were amended to include evacuation via the Hebridean Princess, a cruise ship that would have ferried the royals around the remote Scottish islands in the event of disaster.
The plans, first devised in 1962 after the Cuban missile crisis and approved the following year, have now been revived by senior civil servants involved in contingency planning for Operation Yellowhammer, the battle plan for what happens in the event of a no deal.
It is understood that the emergency plans were reviewed in response to growing concerns that the Queen’s position is being “dangerously politicised” and she is being dragged into the Brexit debate.
Senior Whitehall officials fear the Queen, who must remain politically neutral, could become the target of public anger.
Last month, she called for people to seek “common ground” and counselled “never losing sight of the bigger picture” in a speech to the Sandringham Women’s Institute that was interpreted as a veiled reference to the toxic debate around Brexit. The intervention enraged hardened remainers and Brexiteers alike.
Last month Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory Brexiteer and chairman of the European Research Group, demanded the head of state step in and halt parliament to stop MPs passing a bill blocking a no-deal Brexit.
A senior Whitehall source said: “It would be irresponsible if we didn’t consider every eventuality in the event of a no-deal Brexit — no matter how unlikely — and of course, that would include the security of the royal family.”
Although plans exist to evacuate the royal family, there is no guarantee the Queen would agree to leave the capital.
During the Second World War, the royals stayed in London while Britain battled the Nazis. The Queen Mother said: “The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave without the King. And the King will never leave.”
Downing Street and Buckingham Palace declined to comment.