What does COBRA mean? What C.O.B.R.A. stands for in UK government and meaning behind agency meeting explained

COBRA’s purpose is to coordinate cross-departmental chiefs and top agencies in response to emergencies

COBRA is a term you may hear the Government refer to frequently, but what does it stand for and what is the meaning behind it?

Here’s what you need to know.

What does COBRA stand for? 

COBRA is known for being the name of an emergency situation committee, which was launched almost 50 years ago following the 1972 miners’ strike.

The name behind the acronym comes from the location where the meetings might have originally taken place - although it’s not clear.

COBRA translates as Cabinet Office Briefing Room A - a series of rooms located in the Cabinet Office in 70 Whitehall - but it’s thought that meetings took place inside treasury briefing room A.

The name might have changed over time because COBRA is more memorable - and it simply rolls off the tongue a bit better.

What does the COBRA Committee do?

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace arrives at the Ministry of Defence, London, ahead of a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee on the situation in Ukraine (image: PA)

The acronym COBRA is still used as shorthand for the Civil Contingencies Committee which handles matters of national emergency or major disruption in the UK.

The 2004 Civil Contingencies Act set out responsibilities at local, national, agency and departmental level for different kinds of emergencies.

COBRA’s purpose is to coordinate cross-departmental chiefs and top agencies in response to such emergencies - such as planning for a diplomatic end to the Ukraine crisis.

Matters of national emergencies or major disruption could span from terrorist attacks or environmental disasters like flooding.

It means big wigs from local, national, agency and different departmental services could be called on to attend the meeting so they are briefed on what to do next.

COBRA meetings are called during any crisis where a UK or local response is warranted and the timing of meetings may be dependent on which ministers can attend.