SHEEP may have to be slaughtered by the roadside if the official start of Brexit results in a transport standstill at UK ports.

It was reported this week that Whitehall officials are considering a number of contingency plans to cover 'extreme scenarios' that might arise if the UK leaves the EU's Single Market free trade and movement arrangements without first agreeing a replacement deal governing border controls.

Attention is focussed on the supply chains for ‘just in time’ goods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, which could be compromised if there were severe delays on the roads around ports as the changes come into force. Officials are particularly worried about the issue of animals, being taken across the Channel from the UK to Europe, ending up stuck in lorries in long queues at Dover and along key motorways leading to the port.

One inside source told journalists: “The thing worrying some in No 10 is the discussion prompted by Defra's Clare Moriarty about what to do, and whether we would need to have mass slaughter of such animals en route to slaughterhouses in the EU.”

Insiders insist that this outcome is an unlikely one – but it is enough of a possibility for officials to come up with emergency slaughter plans, just in case.