Yellowhammer: No Deal Brexit “Doomsday scenario” released

(Title Image:

Believe it or not, this is the 1000th Senedd Home article and, ironically, I have the UK Parliament to thank for it.

MPs voted in favour of the publication on “No Deal Brexit” assessments (known as Operation Yellowhammer) before the UK Parliament was suspended/prorogued earlier this week.

The document – compiled by the civil service for the UK Government – is very short, just 5 pages of text (pdf), but it packs a punch. The Welsh Government have already outlined their own plans and are now under pressure to publish the full Yellowhammer advice.

It’s worth stressing that this is all a worst-case scenario and it doesn’t mean it will all happen – it’s just a “Murphy’s Law” version of a No Deal Brexit. Here’s a summary of the key points.

Border controls

The French will impose full border controls on 1st November 2019 and the assessment says between 50-85% of all HGVs arriving at the English Channel may not be ready for French customs arrangements; flows through the ports could be 40-60% slower than now with the most serious disruption lasting at least 3 months (that doesn’t sound like much but with a “just in time” delivery model it could be serious). HGVs could face waiting up to 2 and a half days to cross the Channel.

The same applies to individuals travelling to the EU from the UK, who could face extra immigration checks – causing delays at St Pancras, the Channel Tunnel, airports etc.

Delays at the Gibraltar-Spain border could last at least 4 hours and Gibraltar still hasn’t invested in contingency infrastructure and hasn’t passed all the necessary legislation for a “No Deal”.

EU tariffs will be applied automatically to goods entering the EU (including the Republic of Ireland). There’s a risk of this aiding the black market and smuggling on either side of the UK-Irish border.

There’s an expectation that up to 40 EU vessels will illegally enter Welsh territorial waters (the only mention of Wales in the entire document), with 282 EU vessels doing the same around the UK in total. Fisheries patrols are a devolved Welsh Government responsibility (though you would expect the Royal Navy to be on standby regardless).

Utilties & Fuel

The report doesn’t expect any interruption to electricity or gas – though there could eventually be disruption in Northern Ireland and electricity price increases months or years after Brexit.

There isn’t expected to be any impact on water services either, with the water industry having sufficient stocks of necessary chemicals. If the supply chain fails though, “urgent action” would need to be taken to ensure people can access clean water.

Any border delays are likely to affect fuel distribution and panic buying could lead to fuel shortages. There’s a redacted section (the only one) that, reportedly, refers to oil refineries but that’s not confirmed one way or another.

Essential Supplies

Any serious problems at border crossings could last up to 6 months and would impact supplies of medicines – which are overly reliant on Channel crossings, with 75% of medicines arriving that way. Medicines also often have to be transported under strict conditions (i.e. chiller vans) due to short shelf lives. There are (undisclosed) plans to mitigate this but the report warns that “flying medicines in” won’t necessarily work and isn’t financially sustainable due to a lack of air freight capacity.

There could be shortages of certain types of fresh food which will reduce choice and increase prices rather than lead to an overall food shortage. The UK growing season will have ended before Brexit and this could potentially impact Christmas. There’s a risk of panic buying.

Naturally, low-income groups will be “disproportionately affected” by all of this.

Access to Services & Cross-border working

Cross-border financial services are likely to be disrupted. There could also be disruption to flows of personal data and law enforcement data between the UK and EU – though this hasn’t been decided yet. In a bit of good news, pensions will still be paid to UK nationals living in the EU.

UK nationals living in the EU will lose all rights associated with EU citizenship, including access to certain services. Different EU member states have different proposals to deal with this and some are acting far slower than others; this could lead to a spike in requests for consular assistance, which could prove costly and time-consuming (particularly for vulnerable UK nationals like pensioners).

If UK nationals have “third party” status they may only be able to access services in EU member states via different methods, such as mandatory health insurance, residency permits etc.

Any rise in inflation (or serious issues arising from staff and other supply problems) could lead to social care providers in the UK going out of business or entering serious financial trouble within 3-6 months after Brexit.

  • 37