"Just because you put on a seat belt, doesn't mean you have to crash the car."
That's the metaphor offered by Cabinet Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (and prominent remainer) Amber Rudd during Tuesday's cabinet meeting, where Theresa May and her senior ministers decided to pull out all of the "Project Fear" stops to try to browbeat MPs into accepting that they have three choices: Either they pass May's deal, opt for a no deal Brexit, or scrap the whole thing (which May, according to May, isn't really an option, though Parliament does have the legal authority to disregard the will of the people and unilaterally decide what's best for the UK).
And if their intention was to spook both the markets and the British people, May and her cabinet likely succeeded. Because as part of their Brexit planning, May and her ministers are calling for the reservation of ferry space for emergency supplies of food and medicine, as well as putting 3,500 armed soldiers on standby to prevent "any disruptions" when all hell breaks loose, according to the Guardian.
Much to May's chagrin, 'No Deal' has become Whitehall's "central planning assumption.'
No 10 confirmed on Tuesday that ministers would "ramp up" no-deal planning, and that the departments would be expected to make it their main priority.
Downing Street said it would send advice on preparing for no-deal to all UK businesses and suggested they should begin implementing their own contingency plans as they saw fit.
Theresa May’s spokesman said the cabinet "agreed that delivering the deal that the prime minister agreed with Brussels remains the government’s top priority and our best no-deal mitigation."
The spokesman said it was the government’s "continued duty to prepare for every eventuality, including a no-deal situation”. Ministers acknowledged the steps that had already been taken, No 10 said, including 320 “no-deal workstreams" across all departments and 106 no-deal technical notices.
"Cabinet agreed that with just over three months from our exit from the EU, we have now reached the point where we need to ramp up these preparations. This means we will now set in motion the remaining elements of our no-deal plans. Cabinet also agreed to recommend businesses ensure they are similarly prepared enacting their own no-deal plans."
If it comes to this, citizens will be instructed on how to prepare for Brexit prepare through a "range of channels" including advertisements on TV and social media, while two billion pounds will be allocated from a contingency fund to government departments like the Home Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Offering another colorful metaphor, Justice Secretary David Gauke, who has said that he would rather resign than support 'no deal', told the meeting that a "managed no-deal is not a viable option."
"It’s not on offer from the EU and the responsibility of cabinet ministers is not to propagate unicorns but to slay them," he said, according to a cabinet source.
Fortunately for ministers who have been pushing for May to accept that her deal has no chance of ever winning passage - and that Brexiteers would rather crash out of the EU without a deal than countenance the risk of transforming the UK into a vassal state permanently bound to the EU Customs Union - May is reportedly considering holding votes on alternatives.
In what has become a hallmark of the Brexit trainwreck, while May continued to publicly oppose holding a series of informal 'indicative' votes to gauge what kind of Brexit would be politically feasible, the BBC reported shortly after the end of the meeting that the prime minister is, in fact, planning on holding an indicative vote during the second or third week in January (around the time of May's planned Jan. 14 vote on her deal), which would be big...if true (of course, we've heard this before).
But if the BBC report is accurate, May might be setting herself up for another major political miscalculation: She's hoping that by holding the vote, MPs will realize that no one proposal has a strong plurality of support...and therefore accept the fact that her deal is the most plausible option.
The prime minister does not believe any of the factions criticising her plan have enough support to get their own version of Brexit through Parliament.
By allowing them to put forward their proposals and vote on them, she is hoping they will be defeated and her plan will emerge by a process of elimination as the best and only alternative to leaving without a deal.
The danger for Mrs May, says the BBC's deputy political editor John Pienaar, is that none of the alternatives, including her own, can command a majority.
The upshot of the meeting: May is going all-in on "Project Fear", hoping that charts like the one below and graphic warnings about supply shortages will eventually scare MPs into passing her deal at the last minute.
We now take you live to the floor of the Commons where May is putting on her 'no deal seatbelt', so the speak...