News | Published September 12 2019

Operation Yellowhammer: The key points

Following the success of a "humble address" motion, the government has been forced to release documentation about Operation Yellowhammer, the government’s efforts to prepare for a no-deal Brexit scenario.

The five-page document which the government released bears striking similarity to the plan leaked to the Sunday Times last month. 

At the time, Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the minister responsible for no-deal preparation, labelled the leaked plan out of date.

Although the content remains similar, the description of the report has changed. 

In August, the document was described as a “base case” whereas now it claims to be a “worst-case scenario.”

The key points

Relationship with the EU

· Following Britain leaving the EU without a deal, the report describes the likely relationship with the EU as “wholly unsympathetic.” Beyond this, it predicts that many member states will be “unwilling to engage bilaterally and implementing protections unilaterally.”

· The report highlights that no bilateral deals have been concluded with any of the remaining 27 member states but stresses that EU citizens in the UK will retain “broadly” the rights they are currently entitled to. On the other hand, UK citizens will lose their EU citizenship and “expect to lose associated rights and access to services over time.” Healthcare for UK nationals in EU countries will no longer be guaranteed.

· The report predicts the UK will be affected far more than the EU. Describing the “small number of instances where the impacts of Brexit would be felt negatively in the EU as well as the UK”, EU member states may be more likely to act in a way which could benefit the UK.

· Cross-border financial services will be disrupted

· Law enforcement data will also be disrupted.

Level of preparation

· The report assesses the level of preparation for both businesses and the public to remain at a “low level”, with this readiness decreasing as leaving without a deal “does not provide a concrete situation for third parties to prepare for.”

· Business preparation will vary widely, with larger companies being better prepared than small and medium sized businesses.

· This preparation, and the effect of no-deal, will lead to a greater threat from seasonal effects such as flooding, severe weather and “seasonal flu.”

Borders and imports

· The report predicts that on the first day of a no-deal Brexit, between “50-85% of HGVs travelling via the short Channel Straits may not be ready for French customs.”

· This lack of preparation is predicted to reduce the flow rate to “40-60%”, with this leading, in a “reasonable worst case scenario”, to maximum delays of “1.5-2.5 days”. In the case of the flow rate being reduced to 40 per cent, this could lead to disruption lasting up to six months and lead to an impact “on the supply of medicines and medical supplies.” Due to the short shelf life of some medicines, the report states that stockpiling is not a viable option.

· Any disruption to veterinary medicine could lead to a reduced ability to “prevent and control disease outbreak, with potential detrimental impacts for animal health and welfare…which can directly impact human health.”

· The report suggests this disruption could last for up to 3 months.

· Likelihood of increased immigration checks for travellers entering the EU with this likely to cause delays.

Food supply

· There will be no overall shortage of food in the UK but the report states “certain types of fresh food supply will decrease.” Beyond this, “critical dependencies” for the supply chain may be affected and in shorter supply. The report also states that “there is a risk that panic buying will cause or exacerbate” these issues.


· The report warns of significant disruption in the supply of goods which, in the long term, is likely to “adversely impact Gibraltar’s economy.”

Domestic impacts

· The report predicts widescale protests and counter-protests across the UK which will absorb a significant amount of police time. Beyond this, there may also be a rise in “public disorder and community tensions.”

· Low income groups are likely to be hit hardest, especially with the rising costs of food and fuel.

· The government predict that up to 282 illegal fishing boats could enter UK waters, leading to “clashes between fishing vessels and an increase in non-compliance in the domestic fleet.”

· A no-deal Brexit will further damage the “already fragile” adult social care sector and could lead to provider failure. Smaller providers are likely to be affected within 2-3 months with larger providers feeling the effect after 4-6 months.

Irish border

· On the first day of a no-deal Brexit, the government will operationalise the “no new checks with limited exceptions model”, something it describes as “unsustainable” in the long term. This will “severely disrupt trade”, lead to the folding or relocation of businesses which are no longer viable, and hit the agri-food sector the hardest.

· This disruption is also predicted to lead to “protests and direct action” and the growth of an “illegitimate economy”. This is predicted to be worst in border communities where “both criminal and dissident groups already operate with greater threat and impunity.”

The full text of the report can be found here

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Authored by

George Salmon
Political Editor
September 12 2019

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