Whitehall on standby for 24/7 working in 'critical three months' after no-deal Brexit

Posted On: 
23rd March 2019

The Government's entire no-deal Brexit operation could become overwhelmed during a “critical three-month phase”, a leaked official document has warned.

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The leaked Cabinet Office paper on 'Operation Yellowhammer', seen by The Guardian, says that government departments will have to tackle most problems themselves.

It warns that “the… structure will quickly fall if too many decisions are unnecessarily escalated to the top levels that could have reasonably been dealt with internally".

It also reportedly includes a flow chart outlining the type of fast-paced day required by those working in Whitehall in the face of a no-deal Brexit.

A day would start with “situation reports” at 7am. Meetings and assessments would continue until 5.30am the next day.

The document tells government departments that they could be working constantly for an extended period of time.

“Under the planning assumptions it is assumed that the command, control and coordination arrangements might last, during the critical phase, for a minimum of 12 weeks and might require 24/7 working for all involved departments and agencies," it says.

"Some impacts may be felt for up to 24 weeks."

It reportedly identifies 12 areas as high-risk, including transport, healthcare services, and food and water supplies.

Critical decisions will be taken by the European Union exit and trade (preparedness) subcommittee, which is chaired by the Prime Minister.

"The committee will be available to take an overview of the situation and make any relevant decisions including on the following areas but not limited to legislation, identifying funding opportunities, allocation of national level resources (such as military, law enforcement or civil service resources, direction of government bodies and relaxation of regulations required at the ministerial level," the document explains.

A government spokesperson said: "As a responsible government we have been planning and continue to prepare for all eventualities, and that includes managing the impacts of a no-deal Brexit if they arise."

Separately, the Cabinet Office is expected to hold a string of resilience forums around the country to flag issues with more senior local figures.

These include warning of any spikes in community tensions, hate crime, panic buying, protests and demonstrations.

The Department of Health has also issued a 60-question form to every clinic and hopsital in England and Wales, which would have to be filled and sent to senior officials every day.

While some sources have reportedly criticised the level of no-deal planning, the government said: "We have taken action to ensure that local leaders have access to additional resources and support, should they require it. This includes pledging over £58m to assist their Brexit preparations."