operation yellowhammer – the best bits :)

Boris made it 6/6 in the Commons on Wednesday with another loss forcing him to publish the mysterious Operation Yellowhammer. Chief Brexit nuisance, Dominic Grieve, brought forward a motion that requested the previously leaked Yellowhammer documents should be made public in order to fully understand if Johnson had misled the Queen when asking for a suspension of parliament.

Grieve has continuously opposed his own party regarding Brexit. Also, is that man wearing a wig in the front row? (Credit: Financial Times)

With the motion being passed, the ‘full’ documents have now been released with the slight labelling edit changing the plan from “base-case” to “worst-case” scenario. With this in mind, I have decided to do my first listicle, top 5, type thing to really scare the shit out of you because it is very clear now that this is very possible. Farage calls it “Project Fear” and in many ways he is right but just because it’s scary doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

5) “Business readiness will not be uniform”

Gonna ease us in. Not with one of the document’s main points but an introductory phrase which is the essence of every frustrating conversation I have with those willing to take No Deal. The idea of the short term failings vs long term benefits. “It will be fine eventually” “adapt or die” kinda bullshit.

What they are essentially saying, in the most formal way possible, is that some businesses won’t survive. No matter how prepared you think they can be. The document goes on to reference “warehouse availability” as a specific when determining this, implying the bigger companies have more capacity to stockpile. So even if you have started your plans early that doesn’t mean you’re high enough on the guest list to get a place in storage.

Conjoining this with my “it will be alright on the night” annoyance, that tends to come from people who know they’ll survive. They’ll take that hit because they can probably recover. Begins with S and rhymes with bell fish.

4) “In a reasonable worst case scenario HGV’s could face maximum delays of 1.5-2.5 days before being able to cross the border”

*Insert stock busy motorway image here* WOW LOOK AT THOSE QUEUES! (Credit: BBC)

The instant legislation changes that will happen on “D1ND” (day one no deal) means between 50% and 85% of British HGVs may not be ready for the new checks at French customs. I don’t know why they couldn’t have been cleared over the past 3 years but I assume it’s expensive. This is expected to reduce the traffic flow across the channel to 40-60% for around 3 months. The report then predicts this could rise to 50-70% of the original flow rate in future but it is made clear that traffic around that area, for all vehicles, is going to be pretty hectic.

It should also be noted that this is described as “reasonable worst case” which is how a lot of the document of described. Therefore it is not project fear, this is not if everything goes to shit, this is something a varied group of experts have decided is genuinely possible.

Alongside this point, the report says maximum delay of 2.5 days but surely 1 day is too much too? Can some of the products they are travelling last half a day stuck on the motorway? The best case scenario we are hoping for still looks quite bad to me.

A big ramification of these facts that is not instantly obvious is how this will affect trade for EU countries. If a HGV from Germany is meant to be completing 3 trips in a week but gets stuck for 2 days in England it will not be able to hit targets for the rest of Europe. This means some companies will need to avoid the UK completely which is bad news for us and them. This is one of the main reasons that the EU are hoping we can strike a deal before Halloween.

3) “Certain types of fresh food supply will decrease”

The report made clear No Deal “will not cause an overall shortage in food supply in the UK but will reduce availability … and increase price.” I’d like to make clear I’m not really bothered if there’s going to be less avocados available in Aldi. But what is a big deal is, with less supply, prices obviously go up.

Now for a nation that has relied on charities giving out 1.6 million emergency food packs over the past year, we can’t really cope with more price increases; “low income groups will be disproportional affected.” The kind hearts that have helped struggling families, especially over the summer holidays, will see their own wallets tightened if things get too bad. This means less donations and more demand.

Furthermore, the timing of the deadline is far from ideal, with the British agricultural season ending and Christmas incoming this is the time we rely most on imports of food. Water shouldn’t be a problem apparently but we could have a shortage in cleaning chemicals. So maybe don’t have it straight out the tap.

2) Ireland, point 18.

Point 18 of operation Yellowhammer tries to calmly explain how Ireland could all go to shit if No Deal was to take place.

I’m sure you may have heard about the Irish Backstop, that thing everyone talks about but no one knows what it means. The backstop was a temporary treaty proposed to ensure there was no hard border in Ireland. Any hard border could cripple the economy of both sides due to delays and tariffs placed upon simple trade.

The main stumbling block was that the terms of this treaty could hypothetically lead to Northern Ireland having ‘special status’ within the customs union indefinitely. This, in turn, would alter its relationship with the rest of the UK, something the DUP passionately opposes as it has been suggested it could create political vacuum that could stir up trouble in Ireland. Uncertainty regarding who is in charge breeds violence. The problem is there isn’t an obvious alternative.

Even though this situation isn’t everyone’s favourite we should be careful that similar problems do not occur when leaving with no deal. The report suggests “some businesses will stop trade or relocate… to avoid the risk of trading illegally.” These added measures on the legality of trading will lead to job losses and struggling families which as a result creates a perfect storm in directing anger towards the authority of the UK.

This image from The Telegraph will not make things easier to understand because it is so bloody complicated

Furthermore, the Yellowhammer report admits in point 10 that “Law enforcement data sharing between the UK and the EU will be disrupted” which implies Irish security may not feel obliged to share all information regarding border control. I am by no means suggesting this would be the case but as this is a worst case report we’re expecting everyone to be making things as difficult as possible The fear is that dissident groups will offer the population their alternative for a modern Ireland, potentially leading to more troubles which have not been seen there since the Belfast agreement of 1998.

The problems with Ireland are by no means localised to No Deal. It is a bloody complicated problem no matter what happens, which is why it was so surprising it was barely mentioned during Leave/Remain campaign. This report just highlights one of the many possible shit storms on offer.

1) “Three quarters of medicines come via the short straits”

This is it. The ultimate project fear propaganda tool and the no1 thing that we should all be terrified about. Except it’s not propaganda. It’s people’s lives.

For starters, the rules immediately change under no deal on what we can and cannot import so this reduces our choice in medical supplies. Secondly, the area that is estimated to have 2.5 day delays will have many vehicles that usually contain “products transported under temperature controlled conditions.” How long can a lorry stay controlled in a traffic jam?

Our government has already begun the stockpiling for certain treatments, with priority lists being sent far and wide across the NHS but this isn’t sustainable. If the delays were to last as long as anticipated that’s 6 months of essential resources, which is made even harder because of the initial prep for the last deadline earlier this year. The previous stockpile has only just started running out, not every service has the funds to begin another.

So with the threat of No Deal meaning doctors are having to prioritise the most needy patients into categories, some drugs will not have the shelf life to be stockpiled and we are out sourcing body bags just in case we can’t keep up; you can see why it’s pretty scary. ‘Project Fear’ campaigns to make sure predictions don’t become a reality.

Are you scared yet?

You should be. The Yellowhammer report makes clear not only what the terrifying possibilities of No Deal are but that the government are aware of them but are still willing to plough ahead. Just think for a second that we are living in a world that the government is willing to risk running out of certain antibiotics to fulfil a vote that was 3 years ago. The battle of words now has a real possibility to be putting lives in danger. Is it really worth it?

YZ 🙂

(Cartoon Credit: Ferguson for the Financial Times)

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