Demand for Commons recall

Riots to food shortages – Yellowhammer’s Brexit warnings

Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer: ‘severe risks’

Labour accused the government of trying to stop the public knowing about the worst case Brexit scenario after warnings were published that it could lead to food shortages, riots and delays at ports.

MPs forced the government to release the so-called Yellowhammer file before Parliament was suspended – or prorogued – on Tuesday.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the document confirms there are “severe risks” if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

He demanded the recall of Parliament to allow MPs “the opportunity to scrutinise these documents and take all steps necessary to stop no-deal”.

The five-page Operation Yellowhammer file, which is redacted in parts and almost identical to a version leaked to the Sunday Times last month, says a no-deal Brexit could lead to:

  • a “decrease” in certain types of fresh food and “shorter supply” of key ingredients
  • price rises for food and fuel, which would “disproportionately” affect those with low incomes
  • “disruption lasting up to six months” potentially affecting medicines and medical supplies
  • protests and counter-protests across the UK
  • lorries waiting for more than two days to cross the English Channel

The document also says some businesses could cease trading, the black market could grow, and some adult social care providers might fail.

One redacted paragraph is thought to be a warning that a no-deal Brexit could force two major oil refineries to shut, resulting in 2,000 job losses.

The British Medical Association said that Yellowhammer confirms concerns it has expressed regarding vital medicine supply shortages among other areas. The British Retail Consortium echoed these sentiments in relation to fresh food availability.

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve responded by calling for a second referendum with an option for the UK to remain in the EU. He also said Mr Johnson should resign as Prime Minister if it is confirmed that he misled the Queen over proroguing parliament.

Scotland’s highest civil court on Thursday ruled that the government’s proroguing of Parliament was unlawful.

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 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.”

Investment and hiring warning

A survey of over 1,500 companies by the British Chambers of Commerce found that in the event of a No deal nearly a quarter of firms (24%) would revise investment plans down, while just 4% would revise up. 

A fifth (22%) would revise recruitment plans down in the event of no-deal, while 3% would revise up.

Larger businesses surveyed (firms with more than 50 employees) were more likely to report that they will revise investment (33%) and recruitment (31%) plans downwards in a ‘no deal’ scenario, while 5% of surveyed businesses reported they would revise investment and recruitment upwards, respectively. 

A ‘no deal’ exit on 31 October would have real-world impacts

– Adam Marshall, BCC

Additionally, nearly one in five firms surveyed (18%) said they planned to move some or all of their business overseas in a no-deal scenario, signalling the possibility of a significant movement of operations by some firms away from the UK, while 2% of respondents said they would plan to move their overseas presence to UK (if they are currently partly based outside UK).  

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the BCC, said:  “The government has repeatedly said that it wants to reach a deal with the EU, and our latest evidence shows the importance of delivering a negotiated settlement. 

“A ‘no deal’ exit on 31 October would have real-world impacts across the UK. Many more companies tell us that they would revise recruitment and investment plans downward, rather than up, in the event of a no-deal exit. 

“Our evidence yet again demonstrates the importance of averting a messy and disorderly exit from the EU on October 31.”

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