Boris Johnson has faced renewed pressure to recall Parliament after the Prime Minister was forced to reveal that a no-deal Brexit could trigger medical shortages, food price rises and major cross-channel trade delays.
The opposition seized on the release of Operation Yellowhammer assessments of the impact of leaving the EU without an agreement to insist MPs return to Westminster.
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Operation Yellowhammer document fears spark call for return of MPs to Parliament
The yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) is a passerine bird in the bunting family that is native to Eurasia and has been introduced to New Zealand and Australia. Most European birds remain in the breeding range year-round, but the eastern subspecies is partially migratory, with much of the population wintering further south. The male yellowhammer has a bright yellow head, streaked brown back, chestnut rump, and yellow under parts. Other plumages are duller versions of the same pattern. The yellowhammer is common in open areas with some shrubs or trees, and forms small flocks in winter. Its song has a rhythm like “A little bit of bread and no cheese”. The song is very similar to that of its closest relative, the pine bunting, with which it interbreeds.
Breeding commences mainly in April and May, with the female building a lined cup nest in a concealed location on or near the ground. The three to five eggs are patterned with a mesh of fine dark lines, giving rise to the old name for the bird of “scribble lark”. The female incubates the eggs for 12–14 days prior to hatching, and broods the altricial downy chicks until they fledge 11–13 days later. Both adults feed the chick in the nest and raise two or three broods each year. The nest may be raided by rodents or corvids, and the adults are hunted by birds of prey. Yellowhammers feed on the ground, usually in flocks outside the breeding season. Their diet is mainly seeds, supplemented by invertebrates in the breeding season. Changes to agricultural practices have led to population declines in western Europe, but its large numbers and huge range mean that the yellowhammer is classed as being of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
This conspicuous yellow bird has inspired poems by Robert Burns and John Clare, and its characteristic song has influenced works by Beethoven and Messiaen. Children’s writer Enid Blyton helped to popularise the standard English representation of the song.
It comes after Scottish judges branded the suspension of Parliament ‘unlawful’.
While releasing analysis on impacts of no deal, the Government refused to comply with a similar Commons demand to make public personal messages from special advisers regarding the controversial five week prorogation of Parliament.
Operation Yellowhammer document fears spark call for return of MPs to Parliament
The move came as judgment was due on Thursday in a legal challenge that argued the Government’s Brexit strategy will damage the Northern Ireland peace process.
The ‘reasonable worst case planning assessments’ of a no-deal exit which were released at the demand of MPs showed that major hold-ups at channel ports could occur, along with ‘significant’ electricity price rises and a return to a hard border in Northern Ireland.
What does Operation Yellowhammer warn of?
- Rise in protests and public disorder
- Three months of disruption at Channel crossings
- Two-and-a-half day delays for lorries entering the UK
- Immigration delays for UK tourists heading to Europe
- Disruption to fuel supplies
- ‘Significant’ electricity price rises
- ‘Severe extended delays’ to medicine supplies
- Animal disease outbreaks
- Reduction in supplies of fresh food
- Supermarket price rises
- Lack of clean water due to failure in supply of chemicals
- Breakdown in sharing of law enforcement data with EU countries
- Gibraltar not prepared enough
- Fishing wars between UK and EU vessels
- Hard border in Ireland
On food, the document warned that some fresh supplies will decrease and that ‘critical dependencies for the food chain’ such as key ingredients ‘may be in shorter supply’.
It said 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’.
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The document also said: ‘Low-income groups will be disproportionately affected by any price rises in food and fuel.’
The analysis said the flow of cross-Channel goods could be reduced to 40% of current rates on day one, with ‘significant disruption lasting up to six months’.
‘Unmitigated, this will have an impact on the supply of medicines and medical supplies,’ it said.
‘The reliance of medicines and medical products’ supply chains on the short straits crossing make them particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays.’
The document said: ‘There are likely to be significant electricity (price) increases for consumers.’
The release came after the Court of Session in Edinburgh found ministers had stopped MPs from sitting for the ‘improper purpose of stymying Parliament’.
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It said advice given by ministers to the Queen which led to the five-week prorogation was therefore ‘unlawful and is thus null and of no effect’.
The Government immediately announced it was lodging an appeal against the ruling with the Supreme Court, with a hearing set for Tuesday.
The document’s assumptions are ‘as of August 2’ this year, and it notes that day one after the scheduled EU exit on October 31 is a Friday, ‘which may not be to our advantage’ and may coincide with the end of the October half-term school holidays.
It added: ‘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.’
The Government dossier said that on day one of a no-deal Brexit ‘between 50-85% of HGVs travelling via the short Channel Straits may not be ready for French customs.
‘The lack of trader readiness combined with limited space in French ports to hold unready HGVs could reduce the flow rate to 40-60% of current levels within one day as unready HGVs will fill the ports and block flow.
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‘The worst disruption to the short Channel Straits might last for up to 3 months before it improves by a significant level to around 50-70%.’
The partly redacted document says UK citizens travelling to and from the EU ‘may be subject to increased immigration checks at EU border posts’ causing delays.
On Northern Ireland, the analysis indicated that the aim of avoiding a hard border may be ‘unsustainable’.
No deal could also ‘significantly’ impact adult social care providers due to increasing staff and supply costs.
The document is very similar to one leaked last month, which the Government insisted was out of date.
The leaked information was marked a ‘base case’ scenario, but the information released by the Government, part of which was redacted, was labelled a ‘worst-case scenario’.
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Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘These documents confirm the severe risks of a no deal Brexit, which Labour has worked so hard to block.
‘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.’
The document was released following a Commons motion, but a motion demanding the release of personal information was attacked by the Government.
In a letter to former attorney general Dominic Grieve, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, who is overseeing no-deal planning, said the Government was opposed to releasing electronic communications issued by named civil servants and Government special advisers regarding the suspension of Parliament.
The Minister said: ‘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.
‘It offends against basic principles of fairness and the civil service duty of care towards its employees.’
Mr Grieve said: ‘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.’