Michael Gove says no-deal Brexit will cause 'bumps in the road' as Number 10 blasts leak of Whitehall plan

Posted On: 
19th August 2019

Michael Gove has admitted that a no-deal Brexit will cause "bumps in the road", as Downing Street accused disgruntled former ministers of leaking a Whitehall plan to deal with the fallout.

The documents on Whitehall's 'Operation Yellowhammer' warned of gridlock at UK ports.

Mr Gove - who is heading up no-deal preparations for the Government - suggested the 'Operation Yellowhammer' documents obtained by The Sunday Times were outdated and spelled out only "the very, very worst situation".

Boris Johnson's team meanwhile accused Remain-backing ex-ministers of "deliberately leaking" the dossier, which warned of potential food and fuel shortages, damage to the social care system and a return to a hard border in Northern Ireland if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.

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The Cabinet Office documents - marked 'Official Sensitive' and reportedly prepared earlier this month - shed light on the Government's contingency plans for a no-deal.

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 fears of "direct action" and road blockades.

Meanwhile the dossier says that ministers' own plans to slash import tariffs to 0% under a no-deal could "inadvertently" lead to the closure of two British oil refineries.

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.

However, Mr Gove said: "It's certainly the case there will be some 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 we could take steps to mitigate that.

"And we have taken steps, not just to deal with some of the risks, but also to make sure that our economy and our country are better placed than ever to leave the EU on 31 October."

That echoes the view of Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng, who on Sunday dismissed the reports as "scaremongering".

Meanwhile a Number 10 source pointed the finger at a group of former ministers who have spoken out against a no-deal Brexit. The group includes ex-Chancellor Philip Hammond and his Cabinet colleague David Gauke.

The source said: "It has been deliberately leaked by a former minister in an attempt to influence discussions with EU leaders.

"Those obstructing preparation are no longer in Government, £2 billion of extra funding has already made available and Whitehall has been stood up to actually do the work through the daily ministerial meetings.

"The entire posture of Government has changed."

But a spokesman for Mr Hammond denied being behind the leak, telling the Daily Telegraph: "It was absolutely not him."