Leaked Whitehall dossier reveals fuel shortages and Irish hard border 'likely' under no-deal Brexit

Posted On: 
18th August 2019

Britain would face shortages of food, fuel and medicine as well as a hard border with Ireland if it leaves the European Union without a deal in October, a leaked batch of official government documents has revealed.

An anti Brexit sign in the village of Jonesborough, on the border between Dundalk in the Republic of Ireland and Newry in Northern Ireland.

A Cabinet Office dossier obtained by The Sunday Times warns months of border delays could disrupt key supplies to the UK, while social care providers - who would be hit by rising staffing and supply costs - could face a raft a closures.

The paper has published a series of 'Operation Yellowhammer' documents, prepared earlier this month, which shed light on Whitehall's contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit.

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The file warns that efforts to avoid the return of a hard border in Ireland are likely to prove "unsustainable" in such a scenario, with warnings of "direct action" and road blockades.

While it says there will be "no new checks, with limited exceptions" on the border, it warns of "significant economic, legal and biosecurity risks" that would make it difficult to keep it open.

The documents say:  "Disruption to key sectors and job losses are likely to result in protests and direct action with road blockages."

Meanwhile the dossier warns Government plans to slash import tariffs to 0% under a no-deal may "inadvertently" lead to the closure of two British oil refineries which would bear "significant financial losses".

Traffic disruption caused by border delays could also "affect fuel distribution" and disrupt the supply to London and the south-east.

The fresh supply of food will also "decrease" under a no-deal Brexit, the documents say, while there are concerns complex food production and packaging could be hit by new barriers to trade.

The Yellowhammer dossier predicts Britain's social care system will struggle to cope with an increase in inflation, which officials say would ramp up staffing and supply costs "and may lead to provider failure, with smaller providers impacted within two-three months and large providers four-six months after exit".

A senior Whitehall source told The Sunday Times: "This is not Project Fear - this is the most realistic assessment of what the public face with no deal. These are likely, basic, reasonable scenarios - not the worst case."

The leak was seized on by the Liberal Democrats, while party's Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake saying it "reveals the truth of a no-deal Brexit".

"It would have wartime implications, in peacetime, all of them self-inflicted," he added.

"People will be horrified that Boris Johnson and the Conservatives are willing to pursue a plan that will lead to shortages of medicines, food and fuel. This is a far cry from the promises Boris Johnson made in the referendum campaign."

Meanwhile Shadow Labour minister Laura Piddock said the reports were not about "about catastrophising or scaremongering".

She told Sky News' Sophy Ridge show: "They are saying, in reality, these are the things that could happen if no-deal was enabled.

"Boris Johnson is willing to allow that happen. Because he is completely shielded and the people that he represents are completely shielded from the effects of a no-deal Brexit."