The U.K. will face a reduction in the availability and choice of food, pushing up prices in a Brexit “worst-case” scenario, according to a U.K. government document published Wednesday.
The government released a five-page “Operation Yellowhammer” summary, after MPs voted to force its release on Monday using an ancient parliamentary device known as a Humble Address.
The government sought to resist the publication of the Operation Yellowhammer document, but lost a vote on the issue in the Commons on Monday, prior to the suspension of Parliament, so it was compelled it to do so.
The Operation Yellowhammer document said: “The UK reverts fully to ‘third country’ status. The relationship between the UK and the EU as a whole is unsympathetic, with many [member states] (under pressure from the Commission) unwilling to engage bilaterally and implementing protections unilaterally.”
In a letter to former Attorney General Dominic Grieve and Labour MP Hilary Benn, who spearheaded the cross-party effort to get the document published, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who is in charge of no-deal planning, said he had provided the “most recent complete iteration” of the government’s no-deal planning assumptions, which are codenamed Yellowhammer.
Much of the content of the Operation Yellowhammer report had already been leaked to the Sunday Times. Gove said at the time it was an “old” document.
HMG Reasonable ‘Worst Case’ Planning Assumptions
The document also warns that there could be up to three months of Channel crossing disruption. It warns medicine supply chains could be “particularly vulnerable” to extended delays, and a chemical “supply chain failure” could mean urgent action is needed to make sure people have clean water.
Much of the disruption will be the result of delays in goods crossing the Channel, with lorry flows cut to about 40-60% of current levels, resulting in traffic jams up to two-and-a-half days long as drivers wait to cross the border.
Delays through ports will lead to shortages of medicines and medical supplies, as three-quarters are imported across the Channel, making them “particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays”, the documents said.
Disruption to the supply of medicines for vets could also hamper Britain’s ability to prevent and control disease outbreaks, some of which will affect humans.
There could also be damage to animal health and welfare, the environment, food safety and availability.
The industry will not be able to stockpile as much medicine as it did when preparing for the previously planned exit day of March 29, when it stored around four to 12 weeks worth.
There will also be a shortage of certain types of fresh food as well as “critical” ingredients, chemicals and packaging for the food supply chain.
These two factors “will not cause an overall shortage of food in the UK but will reduce availability and choice of products and will increase price, which could impact vulnerable groups”.
Britain’s growing season will also have ended and the industry will be under more pressure due to preparations for Christmas.
“There is a risk that panic buying will cause or exacerbate food supply disruption,” the report says.
The report also warns of “a rise in public disorder and community tensions” with protests absorbing “significant amounts” of police resources.
And there will be fuel shortages in the south east of England due to traffic queues in Kent, particularly if they block the Dartford crossing.
The six-page document, dated 2 August and leaked to the Sunday Times last month, warns of disruption at Dover and other channel crossings for at least three months, an increased risk of public disorder, and some shortages of fresh food.
‘Food price rises’
On food, the document says certain types of fresh food supply “will decrease” and “critical dependencies for the food chain” such as key ingredients “may be in shorter supply”.
It says these factors would not lead to overall food shortages “but will reduce the availability and choice of products and will increase price, which could impact vulnerable groups”.
The document also says low-income groups “will be disproportionately affected by any price rises in food and fuel”.
The flow of cross-Channel goods could face “significant disruption lasting up to six months”.
“Unmitigated, this will have an impact on the supply of medicines and medical supplies,” it says.
“The reliance of medicines and medical products’ supply chains on the short straits crossing make them particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays.”
Among its other key points are:
- Protests and counter-protests will take place across the UK
- Lorries could have to wait more than two days to cross the Channel
- Some businesses will cease trading
- There will be a growth in the black market
- Some providers of adult social care could fail
- The document also warns of potential clashes if foreign fishing vessels enter British
- territorial waters on the day after the UK’s departure and says economic difficulties could
- be “exacerbated” by flooding or a flu pandemic this winter.
HMG Reasonable Worst Case Planning Assumptions LINK HERE