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Operation Yellowhammer: UK releases 'no-deal' Brexit documents predicting delays at border

Plans drawn up to prepare for a 'no-deal' Brexit released by Boris Johnson's government
Plans drawn up to prepare for a 'no-deal' Brexit released by Boris Johnson's government
By Caroline MortimerCristina Abellan-Matamoros
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The UK government has released its 'Operation Yellowhammer' which details 'significant disruption' at the borders which could lead to medicine and fuel shortages


Goods and services including vital medical supplies could face significant disruption in crossing the English Channel for up to six months according to “worse case scenario” plans drawn up by the UK government.

The document, dubbed “Operation Yellowhammer”, laid out the major problems the UK could face if it crashes out of the EU without a deal on 31st October.

The plans estimated between 50 and 85% of lorries travelling across the Channel Strait between the UK and France were not ready for the French customs checks.

The documents say there could be “significant disruption for up to six months” until freight carries adjust to the new requirements.

Michael Gove, the minister in charge of preparing the country for a no-deal, said on Wednesday that the suppositions in the documents were currently under review but that they were the most recent iteration of the plans.

Gove released the documents after a request from MPs but refused to make public communications between No 10 aides about Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament until October 14.

Gove said that the MPs request to see communication from advisers in Downing Street were "unreasonable and disproportionate".

Read more: 'No-deal' Brexit: everything you need to know

What do the 'Operation Yellowhammer' documents say in detail?


The document said that lorries would probably have to wait up to two and a half days to cross the English Channel.

Traffic queues could also affect fuel deliveries, disrupting London and the south-east of England and panic buying could also cause shortages in other parts of the country.

Cross-border financial services and information-sharing between police and security services would also be affected, according to the document.

British citizens would also be subject to increased checks at EU border posts, it said.


A no-deal Brexit would also have a knock-on effect on the UK’s medicine supplies as three-quarters of medicine is brought in via this short strait.

The document said: “The reliance of medicines and medical products’ supply chain on the short strait crossing makes them particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays.

“While some medicines can be stockpiled, others cannot due to short shelf lives - it will not also be practical to stockpile products to cover the expected delays of up to six months”.


A disruption to the supply of medicines for veterinary use could "reduce the ability to prevent and control disease outbreaks," which could have a "detrimental impact to animal health and welfare, the environment, and food safety," said the document, adding that animal spread diseases would also impact human health.

Cars and lorries take part in a test run for 'no-deal' preparation for cross channel travelReuters

Food shortages

The supply of certain types of fresh food would also be affected, said the document.

"Certain types of fresh food supply will decrease," it said. "There is a risk that panic buying will cause or exacerbate food supply disruption."

The documents note poorer households will be “disproportionately affected by any price rises in food and fuel”.


UK nationals in the EU

Britons living in member states would lose their right to live there without a residency permit, said the document. The government has a "mixed picture" of how member states will act in case of a no-deal Brexit; what their level of "generosity" will be and how detailed their legislation towards Britons will be.

Because of the level of uncertainty, the government expects a rise in the level of consular enquiries and will likely need to require more "time-consuming consular assistance".

Additionally, British persons living in member states could lose their right to healthcare. "Member states take no further action to guarantee healthcare for UK nationals and treat them in the same way as other 3rd country nationals," it said.

Access to healthcare for UK nationals will likely depend on the member state they live in and their policies.



Due to increased checks at the border with Spain, Gibraltar is like to see a disruption in the supply of foods, medicines, trans-frontier shipment of waste, and delays of more than four hours in the movement of people across borders.

"Prolonged border delays over the longer terms are likely to adversely impact Gibraltar's economy," said the document.

The UK government is also concerned that because Gibraltar has not passed all necessary legislation for a no-deal, there could be legal risks for the government of the island.

Protests and law enforcement

The document also highlights a possible rise in public disorders with protests and counter-protests taking place across the country.


Clashes between fishing vessels

The document also warns of potential clashes if foreign fishing vessels entre British waters.

Reaction from Labour Party

UK's Labour Party said the documents confirmed the risks posed by a no-deal Brexit.

"It is completely irresponsible for the government to have tried to ignore these stark warnings and prevent the public from seeing the evidence," said Labour's Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer.

"Boris Johnson must now admit that he has been dishonest with the British people about the consequence of a No Deal Brexit."


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