UK: Drinking water supply hot topic in Brexit negotiations

Drinking water has become part of the Brexit negotiations. Photo: European Commission. 

Politicians in the United Kingdom are struggling with the Brexit-deal. There seems to be a lack of support for the EU-deal that is prepared by president May. Behind closed doors the government is also preparing a no-deal scenario. But according to a leaked secret report a no-deal can lead to drinking water shortages within a few days because Britain will run out of chemicals that imported from Europe. These chemicals are needed to produce safe drinking water.

Drinking water company Thames Water already has confirmed to the media they are talking to prime minister May to take adequate measures to prevent drinking water shortages. Earlier Environment Secretary Michael Gove decided to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal over fears Britain would run out of clean drinking water. In order to make water safe to drink, suppliers add chemicals like aluminium sulphate, calcium hydroxide and sodium silicofluoride. These chemicals are all imported from EU countries. According to the confidential report ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ leaked to the Daily Mail these vital chemicals rely on the ‘just in time’ economy and cannot be stockpiled as they are too volatile.

Back-up is needed
Chief executive Steve Robertson of Thames Water told the Press Association the group is working closely with the department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as the industry scrambles to ensure it has enough supplies of chemicals to treat drinking water. Robertson said there will not be a water shortage, but the industry was has to take action and might need to call on the government for back-up support on certain supplies. “There’s no need for panic, but we do need to recognise there’s a threat from the point of view of supply of chemicals”, stated the chief executive.

According to the Daily Mail the leaked confidential documents warned that water production plants would have to turn the taps off or risk poisoning millions, with schools forced to close and hospitals facing chaos at the absence of clean water. It is not obvious if the shortage of chemicals will lead to serious problems but the importance of a safe drinking water supply is a strong argument to support the Brexit-deal.