Nevine and Richard Mann have started a garden and stocked up on medicine and food in advance of Brexit going into effect. (James Beck for The New York Times)
Her cupboards are jammed with pasta and rice, enough to feed a family of five for weeks. Medications are stuffed into tubs, and in the garden of her four-bedroom home stands a 1,100-liter water tank.
Nevine Mann is not preparing for nuclear war, flooding or civil disorder in this part of Cornwall, in southwest England. No, the specter that keeps her on edge is Brexit.
Ms. Mann, 36, has joined the country’s band of «Brexit preppers», people who fear chaos in March, when Britain will leave the European Union, and who are stockpiling supplies.
For more than 18 months, Britain has been trying to negotiate a deal with the European Union, without which the country could face gridlock at ports, trucks stuck on highways with their loads of food spoiling, empty shelves, energy scarcity and factories shutting down. Britain imports around one-third of its food from the European Union, and businesses rely on complex supply chains that could break down if checks are imposed on the thousands of trucks that cross the English Channel each day.
«People are talking about World War II and rationing», Ms. Mann said. «People have also been talking about the blackouts in the 1970s, and how power was rationed».
She said, «This has the potential of being a combination of the two».
The government of Prime Minister Theresa May dismisses such talk, but its own ministers have published contingency plans for an exit on March 29 without a deal, and for the first time since the end of rationing in the 1950s, Britain has a minister responsible for food supplies.
Among the advice circulating is a leaflet, «Getting Ready Together», that describes risks including reduced gas and oil supplies, shortages of food and drugs, and panic-buying leading to rationing.
The Manns have started stockpiling food to last for weeks, with Nevine Mann describing the effort as ‘‘surreal.’’ (James Beck for The New York Times)
«We can’t change a lot of things, but we can be ready for the worst possible outcome, because nobody died from being overprepared», said the leaflet’s author, James Patrick, a security consultant and former police officer.
Mr. Patrick, who lives in the East Midlands region of England, says that people need not stock large quantities of food, and that his family has enough for only a week.
Mr. Patrick has a podcast, «The Fall», that paints a dystopian picture, anticipating that civil unrest could start on the first day of a disorderly Brexit «and increases exponentially after that» — a prediction that he denies is alarmist.
Some Brexit supporters see «preppers» as alarmists who want to scare the population into rethinking the whole idea.
When Howard Hardiman, an artist who lives on a remote Scottish island, wrote on Twitter that he was stockpiling because he lives at the end of the supply chain, he drew abuse online from supporters of Britain’s departure from the bloc.
The government has repeatedly stated that there is no need for alarm, and that it expects to strike a deal soon with the European Union. An agreement would probably invoke a “standstill” transition period, during which few Britons would notice any changes until December 2020.
The government has asked pharmaceutical companies to store six weeks’ supply of medication, though what would happen after that remains unclear.
Ms. Mann acknowledges that the idea of stockpiling seems «surreal», but takes accusations of scaremongering in stride. «We are still going to use everything we’ve got,” she said, “and, if we don’t, then people are going to benefit from it through food banks».
«If we are panicking for nothing», she added, «does it matter?»