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Amazon warns of possible ‘civil unrest’ in case of no-deal Brexit

According to a report in The Times, the head of Amazon UK has informed the government that the company is preparing for the worst possible impacts of a hard Brexit.

Since his appointment to the role earlier this month, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has promised to “step up” government planning for a hard Brexit. He has criticised individuals and organisations warning of the dangers and complications that could arise as a result of the UK’s departure from the bloc, particularly in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

This weekend, Raab described the European Commission as “irresponsible” for flagging up in a report the possible dangers that could face EU nationals living in Britain and UK citizens living on the continent in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The latest warnings from British industry were issued during a meeting of business leaders hosted by Raab. According to Doug Gurr, head of Amazon UK, the e-commerce giant was considering the worst possible outcomes of the Brexit negotiations as part of its contingency planning. Among the possibilities was that of rapidly escalating “civil unrest”.

An anonymous source present at the meeting told The Times that: “One of the people there with a significant supply chain had civil unrest within two weeks in their no-deal planning.” This reportedly “stunned” other attendees, who included representatives from Barclays, Shell, Morrisons and Lloyd’s of London.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, conservative MP and vocal leader of the Eurosceptic European Research Group, opined that Gurr’s comments were “absurd”.

In a statement, Amazon UK declined to confirm or deny Gurr’s remarks, and said: “Like any business, we consider a wide range of scenarios in planning discussions so that we’re prepared to continue serving customers and small businesses who count on Amazon, even if those scenarios are very unlikely. This is not specific to any one issue - it’s the way we plan for any number of issues around the world.”

Amazon joins a number of large engineering and technology-related companies warning of the dangers of a hard Brexit, including Airbus, Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Siemens and Ryanair, as well as the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Gurr’s remarks coincide with similar comments made by remain-supporting Dominic Grieve, a Conservative MP and former attorney general, who argued that a no-deal Brexit could leave the country in a “catastrophic” condition. Under this “state of emergency”, Grieve said, the country could lack basic services and products – such as flights, some foods and medicines – taken for granted today.

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