The government revelations leaked this weekend in The Sunday Times concerning the adverse consequences of a no-deal Brexit made for disquieting and disheartening reading. Clustered together in a file labelled ‘Official Sensitive’, the unpreparedness of British traders and hauliers could lead to a three-month disruption at UK ports, along with increased immigration checks for UK nationals entering EU frontiers. A surge in criminality was also revealed as a potential risk of a no-deal Brexit.
It has emerged quite clearly that this is not a regular leaked government document which unwelcomingly appears in the Sunday papers and remains in the public cognisance until Monday morning, having eventually fizzled out. The latest reports cannot be so easily dismissed as further scaremongering engineered by disgruntled Remainers – the leaked report comes from the very hub of the Boris Johnson-led government’s Committee on co-ordinating the UK’s departure from the European Union. After reading, an outsider would undoubtedly be forgiven for thinking that the UK is on a sliding precipice rapidly crumbling toward anarchy.
Codenamed ‘Yellowhammer’ by the Treasury, the report – which is comprehensively analysed by The Times’ correspondents – covers sixteen key areas. These include hectic disruption at the UK’s channel crossing with France, limitations on access to medicines and a “decrease” in fresh food, all of which are likely to be impacted by the UK leaving the EU without a deal on 31st October.
When Boris Johnson took office late last month, his inflated, anoetic pledges to renegotiate Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement proved to be hopelessly elusive. Arguably, this has been further exacerbated by the government’s own admission that some of the 27 EU Member States are likely to be “unsympathetic” to the UK – a fact which does not bode well for the Prime Minister as he embarks on his trip to meet with key member state leaders, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel. It looks increasingly likely that Boris Johnson’s government is gearing itself and the country for a no-deal scenario, by its own words and actions.
The base scenario section of the highly classified document bluntly declared that any rights which UK citizens enjoyed around the EU’s member states would “end.” It was this, coming directly from the UK government, which gave readers a sample of the catalogue of issues a no-deal Brexit would have in store for the country. Who would have thought that after almost fifty years of membership of the EU, the United Kingdom’s prevailing legacy would be clandestinely scribed on a few sheets of paper?
The difficulties which cross-channel traders and hauliers could face in the event of a no-deal Brexit feature prominently in the leaked document. Many fear that their organisations would be wholly unprepared to meet the new custom rules on the EU side. Such a situation which would see the UK traders processed with the status of a ‘third country’, as the UK would no longer be subject to the rules pertaining to the EU internal market. The report further declares that an approximated 50% to 80% of heavy goods vehicles would not meet the “mandatory controls” enforced by France on ‘Exit Day,’ having the potential duration of “longer” than three months before the flow would balance to a rate of 50% to 70%. This disclosure comes amidst tensions between the Road Haulage Association (RHA) Chief Executive Richard Burnett and the President of Port Boulogne Calais, Jean-Marc Puissesseau, following the latter’s remarks that the UK government was “ready” for Brexit. The RHA Chief Executive Mr. Burnett swiftly rebuked these remarks, insisting that the government had still not provided “clarity” on what documents would be necessary for a HGV to be classified as “lorry ready” in order to legally cross from Dover to Calais post-Brexit.
These reports of unprecedented delays at the channel crossing at Dover and Folkestone have heightened concerns of medical supply shortages in insulin and flu-vaccines, which can denature due to their strict transportation in temperature-controlled freights. This has proven to be a difficult scenario for many individuals with critical health conditions, including epilepsy and anaphylaxis. Medical Director of the Epilepsy Society’s, Professor Ley Sander, recently cautioned epilepsy sufferers against stockpiling medication, suggesting that the Department of Health and Social Care’s Brexit contingency plans were the “most effective” method to guard against any future shortages. A further leaked note from June of this year suggested that the government would require up to eight months of negotiation with the country’s pharmaceutical industry before there was adequate supplies of medicine prior to October’s exit.
On the side of crime and security, it will likely to be a trick-or-treat scenario for police and law enforcement agencies in the UK as a result of a no-deal Brexit. The disclosed document has ominously alluded that “data and information-sharing” across UK and EU states may be disrupted. Such sharing of criminal and security intelligence is a crucial advantage of membership of the EU. The UK’s participation in Europol, the European Union policing agency which coordinates policing operations, is likely to be impacted. It is unlikely that the UK will be able to access its full database – a privilege reserved for fully fledged EU states. Such vagueness is not something that police and law enforcement agencies are traditionally receptive to, particularly when it concerns their own operations and the administration of law and order.
Chief hurdle in the road of the overall Brexit process has been the puzzling question of the Irish border: keeping it open and seamless with no newly-installed customs postings. Individual commitments from the UK, Irish and EU sides also have to be taken into account. The euphemistically termed ‘backstop,’ contained in Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement (which has since deceased), guaranteed the maintenance of a frictionless border between the north and south of the island of Ireland. It was a proposal towards which the current Prime Minister possessed a particular abhorrence, being the eventual impetus which saw him resign from Mrs. May’s cabinet as Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary last July. One would be forgiven for believing that such events occurred in another calendar era. Now, however, Prime Minister Johnson is yet again adamant that the ‘backstop’ is facing its belated binning.
With regard to Northern Ireland, the report creates further ambiguity around the government’s position on maintaining a seamless border with the Republic of Ireland (which will eventually become an EU frontier). A seamless border model on the island of Ireland has been described as being “unsustainable” in the long-term. A stark warning that a return to criminality and smuggling within the scattered border vicinities further adds to fears that the economy in Northern Ireland will be negatively impacted, particularly the agri-food industry which relies heavily on cross-border trade. Earlier in the summer, Stormont’s Department for the Economy predicted that 40,000 jobs were potentially at risk in the event of a deal-less departure.
The report also states that public order in Northern Ireland has the potential to be placed under strain, citing a likely increase in dissident republican activity. It is feared that a re-instalment of physical border or customs infrastructure between the north and south of Ireland could provide such groups with the excuse they are keenly awaiting. The new Chief Constable of the PSNI, Simon Byrne, previously stated his sincere belief that a hard, no-deal Brexit would be “absolutely detrimental” to peace and security in Northern Ireland, an unremittingly demanding and sensitive task.
Wattlebridge, in County Fermanagh, was the scene of a viable explosive device in what PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin described as an “intended” dissident targeting of police and army bomb disposal personnel dealing with a security alert. Urging the community and politicians to unite in condemnation of this dangerous murder attempt, DCC Martin pronounced that feelings were “becoming more entrenched” within the Northern Ireland’s communities. This is all the more dispiriting considering the region’s absence of devolved government and legislature for just under three years.
On Sunday evening, DUP leader Arlene Foster expressed her belief that the leaking of the ‘Yellowhammer’ report was a part of a misleading effort to undermine the Prime Minister in his talks with the European leaders and one which was not in the national interest. Whatever the precise accuracies or inaccuracies of the entire document, ‘Yellowhammer’s’ position on Northern Ireland has garnered greater ambiguity than clarity for those who will face the brunt of a no-deal Brexit. ‘Yellowhammer’s’ leak is yet another, unsurprising indication of the uncompromisingly forceful approach that Boris Johnson’s administration is taking towards Brexit.
Perhaps in retort to the leaked reports, the government released an image of Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, sheltered by the surviving patriotic vestiges of the Union Jack, signing the legislation which would repeal the seminal European Communities Act 1972. The Act confirmed the UK’s membership of the then European Economic Community and saw European Union legislation being directly effective in the UK, as well as establishing its legislative sovereignty over domestic Acts of Parliament.
Echoing a range of opposition to a no-deal scenario from across the political spectrum, Jeremy Corbyn had suggested that he could assume the title of ‘caretaker’ Prime Minister. Dominic Reeve, who is one of a number of Tory backbenchers frustrated at Boris Johnson’s belligerent approach to the Brexit, ruled out supporting Corbyn as a potential interim Prime Minister saying his “divisive” past would not restore national unity.
These issues can be easily deciphered: stubborn indecision is in the way of the three year-long Brexit process developing amicably. Despite the commitments and the best laid plans being revealed by the Prime Minister at Number 10, there is not one road map to lead this Brexit vehicle to its final destination.
The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.
View more posts