The brutal reality of martial law – how it works and what happens.
The government is reportedly examining the possibility of martial law if food and medical shortages spark civil disobedience and rioting following a no-deal Brexit .
Brexit planners are considering imposing martial law in the event of a no-deal Brexit , it has emerged.
An emergency plan being drawn up would see sweeping powers exercised under the Civil Contingencies Act if there is unrest such as rioting, according to reports.
A source told The Sunday Times that planners were using the disruption caused by the volcanic ash in Iceland during 2010 as a model for possible disorder.
But the source warned: “There is nothing that can replicate the scale of chaos threatened by a no-deal Brexit, which will be about a thousand times worse than the volcanic ash cloud crisis.
“The only thing that would be comparable would be something like a major Europe-wide war.”
And yesterday health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the government was drawing up plans to impose martial law and curfews in a no deal Brexit.
So what could happen if Britain found itself under martial law?
WHAT IS MARTIAL LAW?
Martial law is an extreme and rare measure used to control society during war or periods of civil unrest or chaos.
It is declared to enable a state to impose direct military control of civilian functions usually run by government.
Martial law is usually employed for a limited period and often in times of emergency, like a major disaster, invasion or overthrow of a government.
Often they are introduced after a coup d’etat or when a popular uprising threatens the established order.
Martial law could be declared in the event of food and medical shortages following a no-deal Brexit causing unrest, civil disobedience and rioting.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN?
Deployment of the armed forces
Troops would occupy all of our towns and cities, and would patrol key sites such as council and government buildings, power stations, airports hospitals, financial institutions and other places which could be likely targets for protestors or saboteurs.
Military checkpoints would be set up and soldiers given powers to stop and search anyone they suspect could be involved in or planning acts of unrest or rebellion.
It would mean civilians would be obliged to carry ID documents to prove who they are as they go about their daily lives.
Martial law would ban the assembly of people “of specified kinds, at specified places or at specified times”.
It means the government could prohibit opposition group leaders from meeting together, or outlaw a mass protest of people.
Soldiers would be given powers to order people to disperse, or face arrest and imprisonment without trial.
Military-enforced curfews could be declared banning people from moving out of designated areas or even leaving their homes during certain times.
That may mean schools, shops and businesses could be forced to shut and if a curfew is declared during the day.
A night-time curfew could mean streets become deserted after a certain time, apart from soldiers who would arrest on the stop anyone caught defying the order.
In order to prevent the grouping of people, blocks on roads and transport hubs would ensure no-one would be able to leave or enter their town or city without express permission.
Anyone deemed to be a danger to public order or safety could be banned from moving outside a designated area.
Confiscation of property
Depending on the situation, it is possible the authorities could forcibly remove you from your home in order to acquire the property for the government, confiscate or even destroy it, without having to pay compensation.
Legislation also allows for the destruction of “animal or plant life” belonging to a citizen without the need to compensate them.
Anyone caught encouraging or taking part in civil disobedience, disobeying or obstructing instructions would be immediately detained and hauled before a special court or tribunal.
With human rights suspended during Martial Law, troops would be able to arrest you simply for finding you suspicious or threatening.
Control of the press
Government could prevent the press from reporting something which spread anger or panic among the population.
In the same way, the right to free speech could be suspended, allowing authorities to arrest and imprison anyone deemed to be stirring up disorder by making their views known.
WHICH OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE IMPOSED IT?
Although the UK has never imposed martial law, there are many examples of it being used in history, including by Germany and Japan during the post World War II construction, and in the US following the American Civil War.
However, not all experiences of martial law have been positive.
In Poland, martial law was imposed in December 1981 and lifted a year and a half later, and introduced to prevent the opposition from gaining more power.
Thousands of members of opposition organisations like the Solidarity Trade Union were jailed overnight without any charges, while many restrictions were imposed including a a curfew, postal censorship, telephone lines were disconnected, and citizens were prevented from travelling.
In Mauritius, martial law was declared in during a period of civil unrest in 1968 as an emergency measure, but has never been repealed.
It enables police to arrest without having to demonstrate reasonable suspicion that a crime has been carried out, after which the accused is required to report to the police on a regular basis, sometimes every day.
Martial law was also declared in Turkey in 2016 following a coup attempt, during which a curfew was imposed throughout the country and soldiers took to the streets.
At least 265 people died in clashes, including 104 coup supporters.
And in November last year Ukraine’s parliament approved a 30-day presidential martial law decree in areas of the country seen as most vulnerable to attack from its giant neighbour, Russia.
The British also declared martial law in Ireland in April 1916, to maintain order during the Easter Rising.
Sir John Maxwell was appointed Commander-in-Chief of troops and sent soldiers on a nationwide sweep to crush militant nationalism, arrest supporters and seize arms.
After arresting over 3,400 people a military court sentenced 90 people believed to have organised the insurrection to “death by being shot”.