LONDON – Britain will face shortages of fuel, food and medicine if it leaves the European Union without a transition deal, jamming ports and requiring a hard border in Ireland, official government documents leaked to the Sunday Times show.
The Times said the forecasts compiled by the Cabinet Office set out the most likely aftershocks of a no-deal Brexit rather than the worst-case scenarios.
They said up to 85 percent of trucks using the main channel crossings “may not be ready” for French customs, meaning disruption at ports would potentially last up to three months before the flow of traffic improves.
The government also believes a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic will be likely as current plans to avoid widespread checks will prove unsustainable, the Times said.
“Compiled this month by the Cabinet Office under the codename Operation Yellowhammer, the dossier offers a rare glimpse into the covert planning being carried out by the government to avert a catastrophic collapse in the nation’s infrastructure,” the Times reported.
“The file, marked “official-sensitive” — requiring security clearance on a “need to know” basis — is remarkable because it gives the most comprehensive assessment of the U.K.’s readiness for a no-deal Brexit.”
The United Kingdom is heading toward a constitutional crisis at home and a showdown with the EU because Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly vowed to leave the bloc on Oct. 31 without a deal unless it agrees to renegotiate the Brexit divorce.
After more than three years of Brexit dominating EU affairs, the bloc has repeatedly refused to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, which includes an Irish border insurance policy that Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, agreed on in November.
Johnson will this week tell French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Parliament can’t stop Brexit and a new deal must be agreed to if Britain is to avoid leaving the EU without one. Johnson came under pressure Sunday to immediately recall lawmakers from summer holiday so Parliament can debate Brexit.
More than 100 MPs have written to Johnson to urge him to reconvene and let them sit permanently until Oct. 31. MPs are not due to return until Sept. 3.
“Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit,” said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt Britain’s departure from the EU. “We face a national emergency, and parliament must be recalled now.”
Parliament is set to break up again shortly after it returns, with the main parties holding their annual conferences during the September break.
The prime minister is coming under pressure from politicians across the political spectrum to prevent a disorderly departure, with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn vowing this week to bring down Johnson’s government in early September to delay Brexit.
It is, however, unclear if lawmakers have the unity or power to use the British Parliament to prevent a no-deal departure — likely to be the U.K.’s most significant move since World War II.
Opponents of no deal say it would be a disaster for what was once one of the West’s most stable democracies. A disorderly divorce, they say, would hurt global growth, send shock waves through financial markets and weaken London’s claim to be the world’s preeminent financial center.
Brexit supporters say there may be short-term disruption from a no-deal exit but that the economy will thrive if cut free from what they cast as a doomed experiment in integration that has led to Europe falling behind China and the United States.