Mon. Sep 25th, 2023
Brexit: government publishes Operation Yellowhammer documents – live news | Politics
Brexit: government publishes Operation Yellowhammer documents – live news | Politics

Key events

Late evening summary

  • Public disorder on Britain’s streets and rising food and fuel prices are among the possible consequences of a no-deal Brexit, according to secret documents the government was forced by MPs to publish on Wednesday. The content of the five-page document, code-named Operation Yellowhammer, is remarkably similar to the plan leaked to the Sunday Times in August, which was dismissed by the government as out of date. Where that document was described as a “base case”; the new document claims to be a “worst-case scenario”.
  • One point of the document – paragraph 15 – remains redacted. Although a comparison with the original leaked document would suggest it is a warning that uncompetitive trade following a no-deal Brexit could force two major oil refineries to shut, resulting in 2,000 job loses. (See 21:09).
  • The government refused to comply with the second of part of MP’s request, which demanded the release of messages in relation to the suspension of parliament and Yellowhammer (see 20:18). A letter from Michael Gove, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to former attorney general Dominic Grieve said the request was “inappropriate in principle and in practice, would on its own terms purport to require the government to contravene the law, and is singularly unfair to the named individuals”.
  • Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said that “it is now more important than ever” for parliament to be recalled and scrutinise the documents and prevent a no-deal. Grieve also issued a renewed call for a second referendum with remaining in the EU an option on the ballot paper. He said:

As we cannot trust Boris Johnson to halt this calamity, we must trust the people. We must give the public the final say in a new referendum with the option of keeping our current deal as members of the EU.”

  • The British Medical Association said that Yellowhammer confirms concerns it has expressed regarding vital medicine supply shortages among other areas. These comments were echoed by the British Retail Consortium in relation to fresh food availability.

Right, that’s all from me tonight. Until next time.

Michael Gove has reiterated that Yellowhammer is a “reasonable worst case scenario” of what will happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

His tweet comes in response to comments by Luciana Berger MP on ITV’s Peston programme.

She said that the document illustrated what would happen in 50 days’ time without a deal.

‘We cannot trust Boris Johnson to halt this calamity’

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve has responded to Yellowhammer by issuing renewed calls for a second referendum in which remaining an EU member is an option on the ballot paper.

Even a partial release of the Yellowhammer documents is enough to show how deep the damage a no-deal exit from the EU would do.

Boris Johnson cannot portray forcing an undemocratic no-deal on the country as patriotic. On the contrary it would be deeply damaging to our economic interests and to social cohesion.

As a One Nation Conservative I am deeply fearful of the long-term damage a reckless approach – which knowingly risks prosperity, increases poverty and even threatens medical supplies – will do to both the people and our party. This must be stopped.

As we cannot trust Boris Johnson to halt this calamity, we must trust the people. We must give the public the final say in a new referendum with the option of keeping our current deal as members of the EU.”

The government refused Grieve’s request to make public internal communications between the prime minister’s top advisers over Yellowhammer and prorogation, claiming it would breach their rights and various legal frameworks.

‘Worst possible timing for the retail industry’

Echoing the reaction of the BMA, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that Yellowhammer confirms its warnings on the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said:

The Yellowhammer document confirms what retailers have been saying for the last three years – fresh food availability will decrease, consumer choice will decrease, and prices will rise. This isn’t good for the British public and this isn’t good for British retailers.

A no-deal Brexit in November represents the worst possible timing for the retail industry and the consumers it serves.

Warehousing availability will be limited as retailers prepare for Black Friday and Christmas, many fresh fruit and vegetables will be out of season in the UK, and imports will be hampered by disruption through the Channel Straits that could reduce flow by up to 60% for up to three months.

While retailers are doing all they can to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, it is impossible to completely mitigate the negative impact it would have – something the Government itself has acknowledged.

The fact remains that a damaging, no-deal Brexit is in no-one’s interests and it is vital that a solution is found, and fast, that ensures frictionless tariff-free trade with the EU after our departure.”

Here is a hot take from Left Foot Forward editor Josiah Mortimer on the apparent differences between tonight’s Yellowhammer document and the version leaked in August.

If the government edited Yellowhammer before publication to say ‘worst case’ when it was actually the ‘base case’ (as per original highly similar leak) ministers would arguably be open to a ‘contempt of parliament’ charge #Yellowhammer #Paragraph15

— Josiah Mortimer (@josiahmortimer) September 11, 2019

Contempt is a term used to describe “any act – or failure to act – that may prevent or hinder the work of either House of Parliament”.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has said that the “alarming” Yellowhammer document confirms its concerns over the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

BMA Council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul told the Press Association:

Here we see in black and white the Government warning of disruption to vital medicine supplies, a higher risk of disease outbreaks due to veterinary medicine supply issues, and UK pensioners in the EU being unable to access healthcare from 1 November if there is a no-deal Brexit.

The warnings around social care providers folding within months of Brexit day are particularly concerning, having a huge impact on our most vulnerable patients and the wider health service in the depths of winter.”

….And here is Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s response:

Official government documents confirm Boris Johnson is prepared to punish those who can least afford it with a No Deal Brexit to benefit his wealthy friends.

He must be stopped.

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) September 11, 2019

Former education minister Sam Gyimah – one of 21 Tory rebels who had the whip withdrawn – has also taken to Twitter, accusing the government of trying to downplay the document leaked in August.

The leaked document wasn’t out of date. This isn’t project fear. It is a sober assessment of what could happen.

No deal is not ‘vanishingly inexpensive’ or a ‘bump in the road’. This is only a part of the chaos and long term damage our country would suffer. We must stop this.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has now taken to Twitter to respond to the release of Operation Yellowhammer this evening.

Disruption to crime data sharing and an overstretched police force left to deal with public unrest – the Yellowhammer docs show just how much the Tories No Deal Brexit is putting our safety at risk.

The document states that “law enforcement data and information sharing between the UK and EU will be disrupted”.

It also projects that: “Protests and counter-protests will take place across the UK and may absorb significant amounts of police resource. There may also be a rise in public disorder and community tensions.”

Here is more from the Sunday Times’ senior reporter Rosamund Urwin confirming what was contained paragraph 15 of the document originally leaked to her in August, which has seemingly been redacted in tonight’s version.

“15. Facing EU tariffs makes petrol exports to the EU uncompetitive. Industry had plans to mitigate the impact on refinery margins and profitability but UK Government policy to set petrol import tariffs at 0% inadvertently undermines these plans.” [More to come]

— Rosamund Urwin (@RosamundUrwin) September 11, 2019

“This leads to significant financial losses and announcement of two refinery closures (and transition to import terminals) and direct job losses (about 2000). (2/3)

— Rosamund Urwin (@RosamundUrwin) September 11, 2019

Resulting strike action at refineries would lead to disruptions to fuel availability for 1-2 weeks in the regions directly supplied by the refineries.” (3/3)

— Rosamund Urwin (@RosamundUrwin) September 11, 2019

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has reacted to the documents – urging that parliament be recalled to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

These documents confirm the severe risks of a no-deal Brexit, which Labour has worked so hard to block.

It is completely irresponsible for the government to have tried to ignore these stark warnings and prevent the public from seeing the evidence.

Boris Johnson must now admit that he has been dishonest with the British people about the consequence of a no-deal Brexit.

It is also now more important than ever that parliament is recalled and has the opportunity to scrutinise these documents and take all steps necessary to stop no deal.

Operation Yellowhammer contains a total of 20 “reasonable worst case planning assumptions’’ – of which one has been redacted. These assumptions are “as of August 2” this year.

Among them is a warning that:

Protests and counter-protests will take place across the UK and may absorb significant amounts of police resource. There may also be a rise in public disorder and community tensions.

It is also feared that:

Low-income groups will be disproportionately affected by any price rises in food and fuel.

It is noted that day one after the expected Halloween exit is a Friday “which may not be to our advantage” and may coincide with the end of the October half-term school holidays.

This is from the Sunday Times’ senior reporter Rosamund Urwin who received the original leaked Operation Yellowhammer papers in August. It suggests little of the document has changed beyond the headline.

When asked whether the version she had received was redacted she replied: “No.”

What’s different about the new Yellowhammer document that the government has just published compared with the one I got hold of last month? The heading.
What did the version I had say? BASE SCENARIO
Now what does the new one say? HMG Reasonable Worst Case Planning Assumptions

— Rosamund Urwin (@RosamundUrwin) September 11, 2019

The government has refused to comply with Parliament’s request to make public internal communications between the prime minister’s top advisers over Operation Yellowhammer and prorogation.

A letter from Michael Gove addressed to former Attorney General Dominic Grieve states that the request would breach the rights of those named in the communications – including civil servants and special advisers.

This is an unprecedented, inappropriate, and disproportionate use of [the Humble Address] procedure. To name individuals without any regard for their rights or the consequences of doing so goes far beyond any reasonable right of Parliament under this procedure.

These individuals have no right of reply, and the procedure used fails to afford them any of the protections that would properly be in place. It offends against basic principles of fairness and the Civil Service duty of care towards its employees.

Grieve’s demand for the release of all written and electronic contact about the temporary suspension of Parliament and Operation Yellowhammer documents since July 23 to be released was approved by MPs by 311 votes to 302 on Monday.

It asked for all correspondence and communications, formal or informal, including WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Facebook Messenger, private email accounts, text messages, iMessage and official and personal mobile phones connected to the present Government since July 23 relating to prorogation.

It listed key individuals of Mr Johnson’s Government, including senior adviser Dominic Cummings and director of legislative affairs Nikki da Costa.

Twitter users are asking why paragraph 15 of the government’s six-page no-deal Brexit contingency planning document has been redacted:

Paul Sweeney, Labour MP for Glasgow North East, has labelled the government’s response to parliament’s ruling that Operation Yellowhammer be made public as a “perfunctory and insufficient effort”.

The Government’s response to Parliament’s ruling that it should place to ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ documents in the public domain by tonight. This seems like a perfunctory and insufficient effort to comply. It is contemptuous of the will of Parliament.

— Paul Sweeney MP (@PaulJSweeney) September 11, 2019

The redacted section follows on from this traffic warning: “Regional traffic disruption caused by border delays could affect fuel distribution within the local area, particularly if traffic queues in Kent block the Dartford crossing, which would disrupt fuel supply in London and the South-East.
“Customer behaviour could lead to local shortages in other parts of the country.”

…And Operation Yellowhammer has now been published. Read it here.

As the countdown to the release of Operation Yellowhammer continues, let us take a moment to remember where the document gets its name from.

Yellowhammers – also known as the Yellow Buntings – are a type of small song-bird. They are typically six inches in length and streaked brown with a yellow-tinged head and breast.

The population in decline in UK and is listed on the bird conservation charity the RSPB’s most endangered “red list”.

The name “Operation Yellowhammer” is believed to have been chosen at random but, after the report was leaked to the Times in August, some on Twitter developed their own theories.

Assuming it isn’t called Operation Yellowhammer just because they’re up to Y in the Boys’ Big Book of Codenames, I wonder why they chose it?
I’m toying with the notion it’s because yellowhammers are dying out as a result of failing food supplies.#WhyYellowhammer

— Ananizapta #BigGirlySwot #RevokeA50 #FBPE (@ananizapta) September 6, 2018


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