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Boris Johnson’s government this week has been forced by Parliament to release its Yellowhammer report which illustrates their projections for a no-deal Brexit scenario, which includes severe delays at ports, potential food and medicine shortages, as well as a rise in the price of energy across the U.K. With the deadline for Brexit looming on the 31 October this year, if Parliament cannot find a resolution to the current impasse in negotiations both within its own chambers and with Europe, and should Boris Johnson decide not to extend Article 50, the Yellowhammer projections could well become reality.
Some of the most striking parts of the five-page Yellowhammer document projects an “impact on the supply of medicines and medical supplies,” a “reduce[d] availability and choice of products… which could impact vulnerable groups,” that “there may be a rise in public disorder and community tensions,” and that “low-income groups will be disproportionately affected by any price rises in food and fuel.”
Leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, claimed that Yellowhammer shows that the government is “prepared to punish those who can least afford it,” whilst the Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, said “it is completely irresponsible for the government to have tried to ignore these stark warnings and prevent the public from seeing the evidence.” The Government, however, have been doing their best to quell any fears, with Michael Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal Brexit planning, explaining that “significant additional steps to ensure that we are prepared to leave on 31 October deal or no-deal” are being taken.
With Mr. Johnson exclaiming he’d rather be “dead in a ditch” than extend Article 50, it is realistic to consider the consequences of no-deal. Aside from the obvious fresh food and medicine shortages, Yellowhammer predicts longer-term consequences including rises in the price of energy and adult social care. Poorer, elderly people in the U.K. die each year from being in fuel poverty, not being able to heat their homes sufficiently, and no-deal Brexit would likely exacerbate that this winter. It is imperative that Johnson doesn’t push the U.K. over a brink in which the most vulnerable will inevitably be the ones to suffer.
Yellowhammer was released earlier this week following a motion led by former Conservative Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, demanding that both the documents and internal communications between the most senior Conservative ministers and top advisor Dominic Cummings be released. Whilst the government complied with the first part, they deemed it “unreasonable” to release their private communications. The Conservatives removed the whip from 21 of their MPs who, voting with the opposition, legislated to force the government to ask the E.U. for an extension to Article 50 if no new Withdrawal Agreement could be reached before 31 October. It is unclear if Johnson’s government will comply with this legislation right now due to his ditch remarks, rendering yet more uncertainty over the Brexit process.
Whilst Yellowhammer details many of the problems that no-deal might cause, there are actually no solutions in the document, which is possibly the most worrying part. If the U.K. does exit the E.U. without a deal, then not only will the government have broken the law, but the poorest segments of society will inevitably be hit the hardest with sharp rises in the cost of living. The economic and likely political consequences of no-deal seem incomprehensible to a reasonable government and it is up to the Conservatives to act in the interest of their citizens and not risk realising their own government’s extremely concerning predictions.