POLICE have refused to publish plans for dealing with the effects of Brexit on the grounds it would harm national security and international relations. 

The Thames Valley local resilience forum — responsible for warning, informing and advising the public in an emergency — has been making Brexit contingency plans. 

The forum covers Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Milton Keynes, and is made up of local authorities, the NHS, police and other organisations, and is based at Thames Valley Police’s headquarters in Kidlington.

Local resilience forums usually plan for emergencies like flooding, railway accidents, major fires and industrial accidents. Recently, leaving the European Union has been added to that list. 

Thames Valley Police (TVP) refused to even publish dates of of the forum’s Brexit planning meetings, let alone minutes and agendas of those meetings, in a response to a freedom of information request. 

According to the police, publishing this information could lead to the public losing ‘confidence in TVP’s ability to protect the wellbeing of the community’.

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Darren Humphies, of the information management unit, said the police ‘can neither confirm nor deny’ it holds this information, because it would harm national security and international relations. 

He said: “There is undoubtedly a period of uncertainty with unknown consequences for the entire country and public at large.

“To confirm or deny whether information is or isn’t held in respect of planning meetings, in preparation for leaving the EU, would reveal which forces have plans in place and which forces do not.

“This knowledge would enable criminals and terrorists to geographically map force areas which are ‘vulnerable’, thereby rendering them easy targets.” 

Confirming or denying information ‘would provide those intent on committing criminal or terrorist acts with valuable information as to where the police believe civil unrest may and may not occur’.

However, Mr Humphries said that publishing the plans ‘would improve public debate’ and the ‘public are entitled to know how public funds are spent’. “TVP would be held to account where large scale policing may be required to combat community unrest and terrorist activity.” 

But he also said: “The only way of reducing risk is to be cautious with what is placed in the public domain.” 

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On international relations, Mr Humphries said publishing Brexit plans would ‘undermine the relationship and trust between police forces and international agencies’.

On health and safety, he said publishing would reassure the public that the police work thoroughly, and improve public debates relating to a no-deal Brexit. “The public would be able to take steps to protect themselves.” 

But despite the Civil Contingencies Act saying the public ‘should be advised of any impending danger’, to do so would ‘undermine the tactical options available’.

In response to the refusal, Chief Superintendent Rob France said: “Working with partners at a local, regional and national level, we are preparing for the operational impact of a no-deal Brexit, to ensure that we are, as ever, ready to respond to emergencies to ensure the safety of the public.

“While the EU Exit situation is unique, the planning involved in responding is part of our everyday work and we have tested plans in place to respond to any incidents should they arise.

“We have no intelligence to suggest a rise in crime or disorder at this time and are keeping this under continual review to amend our plans if required.”