News | Published August 19 2019

Operation Yellowhammer forecasts worst-case scenario, says Gove

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove has moved to provide reassurances that a leaked government document on the impact of a no-deal Brexit projects the "worst-case scenario” only.

Information from Operation Yellowhammer, the dossier leaked to the Sunday Times, allegedly by an ex-minister, suggests that the UK could face months of disruption at ports in a no-deal scenario amid shortages in food and medicine, including insulin and flu vaccines.

Gove, who is responsible for preparing for a possible no-deal Brexit, said the document was outdated, calling a lot of the fears of a no-deal scenario “exaggerated”.

He also said that Brexit planning had accelerated since Boris Johnson assumed power, but did concede that no-deal would inevitably come with a few "bumps in the road”.

Gove said: "It's certainly the case that there will be bumps in the road, some element of disruption in the event of no-deal.

"But the document that has appeared in the Sunday Times was an attempt, in the past, to work out what the very, very worst situation would be so that we could take steps to mitigate that. And we have taken steps.”

However, Lord Kerslake, a former civil service head, called the document “credible” and said that it outlined “the scale of the risks we are facing with a no-deal Brexit in almost every area”.

Speaking to BBC Radio Four, Kerslake added: "These risks are completely insane for this country to be taking and we have to explore every avenue to avoid them”.

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake said that the dossier is a clear sign that the impact of a no-deal Brexit should be taken more seriously, saying that the government has “simply, I think, pretended that it wasn’t an issue”.

The leaked dossier suggests that a no-deal Brexit could raise fresh food prices due to limited availability, while a lack of fuel availability may see 2,000 government jobs lost if petrol import tariffs are reduced to zero per cent.

Delays would be expected at major transport hubs, including EU airports, the Eurotunnel and Dover, alongside widespread freight disruption.

There are further concerns that the plans that a hard border may be enforced on the island of Ireland, despite efforts to prevent it.

Following the leak, Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney tweeted that a hard Irish border “must be avoided”, while Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill accused the prime minister of undermining the Northern Irish peace process as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations.

Across the Atlantic, speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said last week that Brexit must not compromise the Good Friday agreement if there is to be any hope of a US-UK trade deal post-Brexit being approved by Congress.

A source at Downing Street told the BBC in the aftermath of the leak that a former minister was responsible and was looking to influence future discussions with EU leaders.

The source said that the document was compiled at a time “when ministers were blocking what needed to be done to get ready to leave and the funds were not available”, while Gove added that some MPs are still trying to “frustrate" the government's chances of striking a new deal with the EU.

Gove said: "Sadly, there are some in the House of Commons who think they can try to prevent us leaving on October 31st. And as long as they continue to try to make that argument, then that actually gives some heart to some in the European Union that we won't leave on October 31st.

"The sooner that everyone recognises that we will leave on that day, the quicker we can move towards a good deal in everyone's interests.”

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said that he feels there is “scaremongering” over the impact of no-deal, adding that people “are playing into project fear”.

The prime minister is set to meet with European leaders this week including German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron, where he he will push the case for a new Brexit deal.

Johnson is expected to reiterate that Parliament will not go back on the result of the 2016 EU referendum and will insist that a new withdrawal agreement must be negotiated if a deal is to be agreed. Foreign policy, security, trade and the environment will also be on the agenda.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has once more called upon MPs to collaborate in order to prevent a no-deal Brexit, while over 100 MPs from various parties have appealed to Boris Johnson to recall Parliament permanently until Brexit is done.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
August 19 2019

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