LONDON — Did somebody say “Quexit”?
Queen Elizabeth II and members of the British royal family are to be secreted away to an undisclosed location outside London if a no-deal Brexit scenario incites riots, British media reported Sunday.
With Britain’s scheduled exit from the European Union slated for March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May is running out of time, lawmakers can’t stop squabbling, and Brits are stockpiling items as varied as bicycle parts and bottles of wine. Indeed, uncertainty is rife, but, thanks to plans dating to the Cold War, the queen, at least, will be saved.
“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 source from the British Cabinet Office told the Sunday Times, which chose not to reveal any additional details about the location.
“If there were problems in London, clearly you would remove the royal family away from those key sites,” Dai Davies, the former head of royal protection at Scotland Yard, told the Times. “Where and how they will evacuate them is top secret and I can’t discuss it.”
The royals remained in Buckingham Palace during the World War II, despite grave fears for their safety. For many Brits, the monarchy represents stability and hope throughout periods of upheaval. When the palace was bombed with the king and queen inside, the queen mother famously wrote in a letter soon after: “The children will not leave unless I do. I shall not leave unless their father does, and the king will not leave the country in any circumstances.”
For some commentators, the idea that the reigning monarch would up and leave in the eventuality of a no-deal Brexit was hard to imagine.
“The Royal Family remained in London throughout WW2, even when the Luftwaffe was raining bombs on the capital. But in opaquely sourced stories the Sunday Times and Mail on Sunday claim Brexit means the Queen might have to be ‘evacuated’. Truly doth Brexit make some media mad,” tweeted journalist Andrew Neil.
Writing for the Telegraph, Iain Duncan Smith, a former leader of the Conservative Party, called the royal evacuation plan “Project Fear on steroids,” and lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Mail on Sunday that the plans showed unnecessary panic.
When asked about the royal evacuation plan, royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams called the reports “extraordinary.”
“It is beyond belief that it has received so much exposure. Obviously, there were plans to keep the royal family safe during the Cold War. It is common knowledge that the king and queen remained at Buckingham Palace during the Blitz.
“No doubt all sorts of plans are being dusted down if the possibility of civil unrest linked to Brexit is considered a possibility, but the idea that the monarch, the symbol of national unity, and other members of the royal family might have to be evacuated is simply bizarre.
“Who leaked it in Whitehall? I think it was the Ministry of Silly Walks!” he joked.
In a speech made last month, the 92-year-old queen urged people to “speak well of each other” despite challenging times and to respect “different points of view.” The remarks came at a heightened period of tension in Britain and were interpreted as a nod to the political chaos unraveling in Westminster — despite the monarch’s neutral stance on all things political.