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Traffic jam rehearsals and 1 million bottles of wine: Britons prepare for a no-deal Brexit

Britain sent a convoy of nearly 90 trucks on the road to Europe's busiest ferry port Jan. 7 to test how the country might cope with a no-deal Brexit. (Video: Reuters)

LONDON — Whether there’s a Brexit deal or not, Britons will still have their tinned goods, toilet paper and wine. At least, those panicking about the prospects of no-deal Brexit certainly will.

With just over a week to go before Britain’s scheduled departure from the European Union, there is still widespread uncertainty about how the divorce will be finalized. British Prime Minister Theresa May has requested an extension through June; European Union leaders are meeting to determine what, if any, extension they’ll grant.

In any event, if Parliament cannot pass a deal with the European Union, a “no-deal” Brexit could have dire economic consequences. So some Britons are stockpiling goods they fear will soon be inaccessible — everything from basic necessities to some less vital items. “In case of a No Deal Brexit, I’m stockpiling Nutella in my belly,” one Twitter user declared.

Here are a few ways other ways Britons are preparing for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit:

Practicing traffic jams

On Monday, Britain’s transport ministry had 87 trucks drive from Manston Airport to Dover, home to one of Europe’s busiest ports. The idea was to see how to handle traffic in the event of backup because of a border closure.

Critics said the exercise was an unrealistic simulation and a colossal waste of taxpayer money. “Less than a hundred lorries is a drop in the ocean compared to the more than 10,000 that go to the channel ports every day,” Charlie Elphicke, a Conservative lawmaker from Dover, told Reuters.

Dealing with medicine shortages

Hospitals across the country are dealing with medicine shortages because of “stockpiling and price pressure as the Brexit deadline approaches,” National Health Service Providers told the BBC. There have apparently been shortages of over 160 different types of drugs in the past six weeks, compared to 25 to 30 types of drugs in “normal times.” Diabetics are also worried that, in a country that imports 99 percent of its insulin, a no-deal Brexit could put their lives at risk.

The Department of Health said there was “no evidence” that the shortages were linked to Brexit.

Hoarding refrigerators

In December, Victoria Macdonald, Channel 4′s health correspondent, reported that Britain’s National Health Service had ordered 5,000 new fridges as part of its no-deal contingency planning. “The concerns are that so many drugs come in from Europe, the last thing they want to see happening is for them to be stuck at Dover, because they often have short shelf life,” she said.

“I’ve become the largest buyer of fridges in the world,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock acknowledged on BBC “Newsnight.” “I didn’t expect that.”

Hancock came under fire for those comments, as anti-Brexit campaigners and commentators declared the risk to NHS patients is “irresponsible.” Others have questioned the cost of stockpiling refrigerators and suggested the money would be better spent on reviving the NHS.

Radio ads

On Tuesday, British radio stations began broadcasting advertisements for a government-run website that can help answer questions about post-Brexit life. The ads featured Europeans with different accents asking questions about how Brexit will affect them personally, directing them to a site called “Prepare for EU Exit.” Visitors can use the site to look up how Brexit will affect businesses and individuals depending on their passports and residencies.

The ads did not go over so well with those campaigning to stay in the European Union. “This dreadful ad campaign is a metaphor for Brexit — terrible from start to finish,” Labour lawmaker Jo Stevens said. The website “looked like it was made by some children in their lunch break,” she said.

Stockpiling bicycle parts

Keeping bikes on the road may be less important than keeping medicine fresh, but folding-bike manufacturer Brompton Bicycle is also stockpiling parts and renting more warehouse space just in case. The company’s additional material purchases are valued at about $1.27 million, the Guardian reported this week. The company said it would rather dish out for extra storage space now than risk running out of parts later.

Brompton is just one of a number of manufacturers, including makers of chocolate, butter and cheese, preparing for potential shortages in materials they need to keep their businesses running. “The most important thing is that we are going to continue to make it through Brexit,” Will Butler-Adams, the company’s chief executive, told the Guardian. “The rest we’ll muddle through.”

Securing sufficient toilet paper and painkillers

These are the two items of which the chief supermarket chain Morrisons has seen some stockpiling, chief executive David Potts told a recent earnings call.

“Whether that has any bearing on how people are feeling about Brexit, I don’t know,” he cautioned.

Filling the wine cellars

Do not worry: Emergency plans are in place to make sure Britons do not run out of wine, either. Majestic Wine, a British retailer, plans to increase its stock to 1 million to 1.5 million bottles from various European countries, the Guardian reported.

“We feel highly confident that no one will miss their Sunday lunch tipple as a result of Brexit,” chief executive Rowan Gormley said.

Emily Tamkin in Washington contributed to this post.

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