An increasingly likely “no-deal” Brexit could wreak far-reaching havoc on Britain’s economy, infrastructure and social fabric, according to classified government documents leaked to a British newspaper.

Food and social-care prices would rise, while medical supplies could face severe delays given the fact that most of Britain’s medicines come through English Channel crossings, the Sunday Times says the documents indicate. Border delays would interrupt fuel supplies. Ports would only partially recover after three months of severe disruptions, leaving traffic at 50 to 70 percent of the current flow.

Those are just a few of the impacts predicted by “Operation Yellowhammer,” which the London-based paper says was compiled this month by Britain’s Cabinet Office and available to those with security clearances on a “need to know” basis.

The leak comes as Brexit critics warn that crashing out of the European Union without an agreement will damage the British economy, devalue its currency and create instability. British leaders have sought unsuccessfully since the divisive 2016 Brexit vote to pass a “divorce” plan. Newly elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron this week to press his case for a new Brexit deal. At the moment, negotiations are at a standstill.

Opposition lawmakers have been discussing ways of potentially stopping a no-deal Brexit, including bringing down the government by calling a vote of no confidence in the Johnson administration in early September. It’s unclear whether Johnson would win such a vote.

Johnson, a leading voice in the Brexit movement, has promised to get his country out of the E.U. – deal or no deal – within his first 100 days in office and said a redo of the 2016 independence vote would undercut public faith in the country’s democracy.


The Yellowhammer documents provide a sobering view of what Johnson’s plan could mean for Britain, describing delays across borders and new barriers to trade that would affect travelers, disrupt the flow of goods and lead to unrest.

According to the Sunday Times, the Yellowhammer report predicts the need to restore a “hard border” with limited, controlled crossing points in Ireland, which could cause protests and block roads. Johnson has maintained that a “can-do spirit” can help avert such a change. But the Yellowhammer findings anticipate measures to avoid a hard border will probably “prove unsustainable.”

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, tweeted that Ireland was “respectful” of Britain’s decision to leave the E.U. but reiterated Ireland’s position that a hard border between the Republic of Ireland, which is in the E.U., and Northern Ireland, which is in the U.K., “must be avoided.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., recently said there would be “no chance” of Congress approving a U.S.-U.K. trade deal after Brexit if it undermined the Good Friday agreement.

The memo warns some businesses will halt trade to avoid tariffs, while others who keep trading will pass higher costs on to customers. They say the agriculture industry “will be the hardest hit, given its reliance on highly integrated cross-border supply chains” and high trade barriers. And the black market could grow, especially in “border communities.”

The litany of anticipated impacts also includes protests around the country that would suck up police resources.


Other possible effects detailed in the memo include:

• Increased costs for social care providers caused by inflation could lead providers both large and small to fail within months.

• Plans for tariffs of zero percent on petrol imports could close two oil refineries, cause the loss of 2,000 jobs, spur strikes and further disrupt fuel supplies.

• Delays for vehicles crossing the main Channel because many may not be prepared for French customs.

• Delays at European airports and other transportation systems such as the Eurotunnel that links Britain and France via the English Channel.

• Decreased availability of certain fresh foods leading to less choice and higher – an outcome that the documents say could “affect vulnerable groups” – as well as potential “panic buying.”


• A small but important-to-prepare-for risk of disruption to supplies of chemicals used to treat water, which could affect hundreds of thousands of people and require “urgent action.”

• A risk of dust-ups between British and European fishing boats if ships sail illegally in British waters when Brexit kicks in.

With hopes for a plan to ease Britain’s departure by Johnson’s deadline, the government has been secretly preparing for the fallout, according to the Sunday Times.

But the leaked documents say Britain is mostly unprepared amid “EU exit fatigue” after the country missed a planned departure date in March, according to the paper.

Michael Gove, a senior lawmaker in the ruling Conservative Party who is effectively in charge of planning for a no-deal Brexit, told the BBC that the documents were “old” and detailed “worst case” scenarios. “Since it was published and circulated, the government has taken significant additional steps to ensure we are prepared to leave on October 31st, deal or no deal,” he said.

The Sunday Times cites a senior government individual as saying the Yellowhammer findings present not a worst-case scenario but a “most realistic assessment of what the public face with no deal.”

“This is not Project Fear,” the government individual reportedly said.

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