Boris Johnson has insisted that potential food, fuel and medicine shortages, months of chaos at ports and possible recession under a no-deal Brexit are merely “bumps in the road”.
The prime minister pushed back against concern over a secret Whitehall dossier – known as Operation Yellowhammer – which laid bare the “most likely aftershocks” for the UK in the event of a disorderly Brexit.
The leaked document, which contains detailed no-deal contingency plans, has sparked concerns amongst MPs, but No 10 said the dossier was “out of date” and the UK was making all the “necessary preparations” for such a scenario.
It comes as Mr Johnson rejected demands from more than 100 MPs for parliament to be recalled to discuss the looming prospect of a no-deal Brexit, supported by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The prime minister is expected to spell out his commitment to leaving the EU on 31 October – with or without a deal – when he meets German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron this week.
Asked about the Operation Yellowhammer documents on a visit to Cornwall, Mr Johnson said: “I’m not going to suggest that there won’t be – as I said on the steps of Downing Street – there may well be bumps in the road but we will be ready to come out on October 31, deal or no deal.
“Now of course our friends and partners on the other side of the Channel are showing a little bit of reluctance at the moment to change their position.
“That’s fine – I’m confident that they will – but in the meantime we have to get ready for a no deal outcome.
“I want a deal. We’re ready to work with our friends and partners to get a deal but if you want a good deal for the UK, you must simultaneously get ready to come out without one.
The leaked document, published by the Sunday Times, warned that Britain will be hit with a three-month “meltdown” at its ports, a hard Irish border and shortages of food and medicine if the UK leaves without an agreement.
Business leaders have demanded an independent investigation into the impact of no-deal, after being caught by surprise over the predicted fuel shortages in the document.
James Hookham, of the Freight Transport Association, told the Evening Standard: “If there is a risk of a serious threat to the distribution of normal goods within the UK, that is a massive concern and something we would clearly like to understand better.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also raised serious concerns, telling an audience in Corby: “The chaos and dislocation of Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit is real and threatening as the government’s leaked Operation Yellowhammer dossier makes clear.
“That’s why we will do everything we can to stop it.”
But a Downing Street spokeswoman said: “In recent weeks we have significantly stepped up our preparations for leaving the EU across a whole range of areas.”
A “large-scale public information campaign” is expected to begin shortly, while government websites are being upgraded to cope with an expected surge in traffic.
Michael Gove, the minister charged with leading no-deal planning, is expected to update MPs on developments when the Commons resumes sitting in September.
Meanwhile, the prime minister is expected to travel to Berlin and Paris for talks with Ms Merkel and Mr Macron later this week, ahead of the G7 summit in France at the weekend.
Downing Street made it clear that Brexit negotiations could only resume once the Irish backstop had been stripped from any deal on the table.
A No10 spokesperson said: “We have been clear that what the EU need to understand is unless the Withdrawal Agreement can be reopened and the backstop abolished, there isn’t any prospect of a deal.”