Potty, para­noid or pru­dent? Mums who’ve hoarded months of food and medicine for Brexit

The Mail on Sunday - - Dan Hodges - by Ju­lia Llewellyn Smith

It’s clear we can’t trust the Gov­ern­ment – it’s best to look af­ter our­selves

NEVINE MANN’S kitchen cup­boards are stuffed with cans of beans and pack­ets of spaghetti. Tubs of parac­eta­mol, i bupro­fen and Calpol bot­tles are crammed into plas­tic tubs. Un­der her stairs are stacks of tinned tuna, dried fruit, rice and cous­cous and car­tons of long-life milk. The roof of her home out­side Re­druth in Corn­wall boasts newly in­stalled so­lar pan­els, while her gar­den con­tains three veg­etable patches and a 1,300-litre wa­ter tank. Her gar­den shed is filled with dog food.

Nevine, 36, and her hus­band Richard, 37, a web de­vel­oper, are ‘ prep­pers’, a term that evokes gun-tot­ing, para­noid sur­vival­ists build­ing bunkers in the mid­dle of the US desert.

But the Manns aren’t pre­par­ing for nu­clear war or a zom­bie inva- sion. They’re get­ting ready for an im­mi­nent re­al­ity – March 29, 2019, Brexit day, when Bri­tain will quit the Euro­pean Union. ‘If, by then, we have a deal with the EU, then hope­fully every­day life will carry on more or less as nor­mal,’ says Nevine, a for­mer mid­wife, who cares for the cou­ple’s three chil­dren Oliver, 18, Ethan, 13, and Paige, five.

‘But if we’ve failed to reach a deal the con­se­quences could be scary: we just want to be ready for that.’

Ex­treme? Para­noid? Potty? Very pos­si­bly. But Nevine and Richard are just two of Bri­tain’s Brexit ‘prep­pers’, a fast-grow­ing group stock­ing up on es­sen­tials to en­sure they can live out the weeks if there’s no deal when, with­out any cus­toms agree­ments in place, es­tab­lished sup­ply chains could break down.

While Min­is­ters dis­miss such talk, alarm be­gan in June af­ter news was leaked that the Gov­ern­ment had out­lined dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios for a no-deal Brexit. The worst was dubbed ‘Ar­maged­don’, with the port of Dover (where a third of all our food sup­plies ar­rive from Europe) grind­ing to a halt. Lor­ries might then be stuck for days on mo­tor­ways wait­ing for im­port checks as their loads of fresh pro­duce rot.

‘ The su­per­mar­kets in Corn­wall and Scot­land will run out of food within a cou­ple of days, and hos­pi­tals will run out of medicines within two weeks,’ said a Gov­ern­ment source.

The boss of Ama­zon UK, Doug Gurr, also warned the then Brexit Sec­re­tary, Do­minic Raab, that no deal could lead to civil un­rest ‘within days’, lead­ing Raab to con­firm the Gov­ern­ment was plan­ning to stock­pile food. For the first time since the end of ra­tioning in the 1950s, it ap­pointed a Min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for food sup­plies.

THE Gov­ern­ment is also con­sid­er­ing can­celling all po­lice leave in case of un­rest and char­ter­ing ships to bring ur­gent food and med­i­cal sup­plies into ports that are less busy than Dover. The Army, mean­while, is on standby to help dis­trib­ute pro­vi­sions. ‘ We’d been plan­ning, ini­tially, to have enough food to keep us go­ing for two to three months,’ says Nevine. ‘But then the Gov­ern­ment con­fessed that Dover might be run­ning with 12 per cent to 25 per cent of its nor­mal ca­pac­ity for up to five to six months, so we went “Oh! Let’s aim for six months as a min­i­mum”, which we’ve more or less reached.’

Nevine is one of the more than 2,000 mem­bers of the Face­book group ‘48% Prep­pers’, who are ready­ing them­selves for a no deal.

‘Some are pre­par­ing them­selves for a vir­tual apoca­lypse, while oth­ers are stock­ing up on for­eign goods that may be in short sup­ply, such as olive oil, but ev­ery­body thinks it’s sen­si­ble to do some­thing,’ she says.

And as the clock ticks down on Brexit, it ap­pears in­creas­ing num­bers aren’t will­ing to leave things to chance. Ac­cord­ing to the emer­gency sup­plies and sur­vival equip­ment store Evaq8, in re­cent weeks sales for items such as wa­ter-pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tems and emer­gency food ra­tions have risen by 103 per cent.

‘ We’ve had at least dou­ble the amount of nor­mal or­ders, and a lot of them were stock­pil­ing food,’ says Zaid Al­mufti, the com­pany’s sales di­rec­tor. ‘There’s def­i­nitely a stigma at­tached to prep­ping but it’s al­ways good to have a plan B.’

Like many Brexit prep­pers, Nevine was braced for ridicule when she dis­closed her plans to friends. ‘Some do think we’re ab­so­lutely barmy,’ she ad­mits. ‘They ask, “Is no-deal Brexit re­ally go­ing to be that much of a prob­lem?”

‘I say, “Well, yes, po­ten­tially. We are plan­ning for the worst al­though we are hop­ing for the best.” ’

While the tra­di­tional im­age of a prep­per is a hippy liv­ing in the coun­try­side, Jen McEn­hill, 36, is very much an ur­ban pro­fes­sional. A project man­ager for an ad­ver­tis­ing agency, she lives alone in a flat in Stoke New­ing­ton, North Lon­don, and has been stock­pil­ing food since the sum­mer.

‘When I tell friends and fam­ily I have a Brexit box full of pro­vi­sions in my liv­ing room – where they are out of sight so I’m not tempted to use them – they’re like, “What?” They think I’m prep­ping for the apoca­lypse. But some of my friends with young chil­dren agree it’s a good idea and want to fol­low suit. A few years ago I’d have found the idea of stock­pil­ing a bit nutty, but for the past five months, since it be­came clear there are no clear plans for cop­ing with a no deal, I’ve been buy­ing dou­ble amounts of food with a long-shelf life, such as pasta, as well as medicines such as an­ti­his­tamines and a few treats – like nice vine­gars. I’m also fill­ing the freezer with vegeta­bles.’

She now has enough to last about three months.

‘ Peo­ple can’t cope if the su­per­mar­kets are closed just for Christ­mas Day and we can’t nec­es­sar­ily put our trust in the Gov­ern­ment to solve this is­sue quickly, so it’s best to look af­ter our­selves,’ Jen says.

Jo El­garf, 42, who lives in South Lon­don with her hus­band and chil­dren Youssef, six, and twins Layla and Nora, four, has com­pelling rea­sons to fear the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of a no-deal Brexit.

‘This isn’t about Re­main or Leave, I’m a nor­mal, every­day mum with lit­tle in­ter­est in pol­i­tics and I’m not a pan­icky type,’ she says. ‘But I used to work for a big food com­pany so I un­der­stand the su­per­mar­ket sup­ply chain and how it can be dis­rupted.

‘It only takes a cou­ple of days’ snow for shelves to empty. So over the past few months, I’ve been do­ing my shop­ping for next April now – stock­pil­ing enough food, pow­dered milk and things like wash­ing- up liq­uid to keep the fam­ily go­ing for six weeks. I’ve also been buy­ing com­post to sow seeds in my tiny gar­den be­cause fresh vegeta­bles may be scarce for a while.’

But what Jo fears most is the one

Peo­ple strug­gle if shops close for just a day, so what’ll it be like af­ter a no deal?

thing she can’t pre­pare for. ‘ My big­gest worry is for my daugh­ter Nora: she has cere­bral palsy and se­vere epilepsy and is pre­scribed lots of im­ported medicines I can’t buy over the counter. If she doesn’t take them, she can have un­con­trol­lable seizures that could lead to sud­den death. If I could store up those medicines in ad­vance, I would, but that’s not pos­si­ble.

‘ I’ve sought re­as­sur­ance her med­i­ca­tion will be avail­able af­ter a no-deal Brexit, but re­ceived none. Not be­ing able to help her is beyond wor­ry­ing, I feel phys­i­cally sick think­ing about it.’

Back in Corn­wall, Nevine and Richard have taken Brexit prep­ping a step fur­ther than adding to the weekly shop.

Hav­ing never been green­fin­gered, when they moved into their four- bed­room house this sum­mer, the cou­ple started tend­ing a black­berry and rasp­berry patch to give them fruit in sum- mer and are now grow­ing vegeta­bles, too, study­ing gar­den­ing books for guid­ance.

‘Even the odd car­rot or potato will be bett er t han noth­ing,’ says Nevine.

The cou­ple have also pre­pared ‘bug out boxes’ – bags stocked with three days’ worth of es­sen­tials that can be grabbed quickly in the event of a fast evac­u­a­tion. They’ve also made it a pri­or­ity to in­stall so­lar pan­els in case of power cuts – a lot of our elec­tric­ity is im­ported from France. ‘We’d al­ways in­tended to do it, but get­ting them up be­came a mat­ter of ur­gency be­cause a lot of equip­ment is im­ported and may not be so read­ily avail­able af­ter March,’ she says.

‘There’s the same worry about wa­ter, as a lot of the chem­i­cals used to pu­rify our tap wa­ter come from Europe, but we have a big rain butt and the equip­ment to make its wa­ter drink­able cost less than £35.’

What’s still of con­cern to the cou­ple are items they can’t stock up on in ad­vance, such as petrol (you’re al­lowed to store only 30 litres at home) and medicines, many of which are im­ported and have a short shelf life.

The Gov­ern­ment has asked phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies to store six weeks’ sup­ply of med­i­ca­tion, but what hap­pens af­ter that re­mains un­clear.

‘My 13-year-old has a se­vere grass al­lergy and takes pre­scrip­tion an­ti­his­tamines – if he can’t get those, then he can’t leave the house for six months,’ says Nevine, who t akes med­i­ca­tion her­self f or mild epilepsy.

She hopes to get a lit­tle ex­tra of the fam­ily’s medicines from her GP be­fore the end of March and ad­mits: ‘At least our con­di­tions aren’t life- threat­en­ing. I have a friend whose child has can­cer and is re­ceiv­ing chemo­ther­apy where the drugs are very time­sen­si­tive. If she can’t get them, she doesn’t stand a chance. It’s des­per­ately wor­ry­ing.’

Re­tired po­lice of­fi­cer James Pa­trick is the au­thor of a leaflet, Get­ting Ready To­gether, with ad­vice for pre­par­ing for a no-deal Brexit.

While it cov­ers sub­jects such as how to keep warm in a house with no cen­tral heat­ing, he says there’s no need to stock­pile more than a week’s sup­ply of food be­cause the de­lays pre­dicted at the port of Dover for de­liv­ery lor­ries are for about five days.

‘This is a case of hav­ing some can­dles as well as a torch, a bat­tery- pow­ered ra­dio, per­haps a so­lar- pow­ered phone- charger,’ he says.

‘ You just need two cup­boards of food and some ex­tra toi­let roll and cof­fee – be­cause a lot of it comes through Ger­many – un­less you fancy roast­ing acorns.’

On De­cem­ber 11, t he Prime Min­is­ter’s Brexit deal will be put to the vote in the House of Com­mons. Whether it i s ap­proved or re­jected will be key in es­tab­lish­ing the like­li­hood of a no-deal sce­nario in March.

As Nevine says: ‘If Brexit passes smoothly, we’ll just eat all the stuff we bought in time, and take any ex­tra to a food bank.

‘What we’re do­ing is an in­sur­ance pol­icy. We hope never to need it but peace of mind is there.’

It’s easy to mock peo­ple like Nevine. But if Theresa May’s plans are re­jected, it’s safe to say that the ranks of Brexit prep­pers will be swelling.

We’ve bought so­lar pan­els so the lights don’t go out and wa­ter pu­ri­fy­ing kit

TAK­ING NO CHANCES: ‘Prep­per’ Nevine Mann with five-year-old daugh­ter Paige

BUY­ING DOU­BLE: Jen McEn­hill with some of the pro­vi­sions she’s hoard­ing in case of a no-deal Brexit

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