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'Operation Yellowhammer': The Treasury's emergency Brexit plan

'Operation Yellowhammer': The Treasury's emergency Brexit plan

Further evidence has come to light regarding the Government’s plans for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Government officials responsible for emergencies such as medical pandemics and disasters such as the Grenfell Tower fire, have met to discuss plans in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. 

The Civil Contingencies Secretariat is designed to plan for emergencies and disasters, and services COBRA emergency committee. It was set up in 2001 during the Foot and Mouth Crisis and fuel protests. 

Operation Yellowhammer is the codename for the Treasury’s ‘no deal’ plans. An unknown person was photographed leaving the Cabinet Office holding the secret Treasury document dated 04 September 2018. 

John Glen, the City Minister, was also photographed holding a similar document as he left the Cabinet Office in Whitehall. In a recent two-day ‘no deal’ meeting of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat, it appears that the official Whitehall apparatus to deal with planning for emergencies and disasters has been used in anticipation of real Government policy. 

 

This documents details a number of interesting insights. 

  • Firstly, the Treasury is playing hardball with the £3bn earmarked for Brexit contingency plans. This document showed that the Treasury has told departments their ‘first call’ for funding ‘no deal’ plans should be ‘internal reprioritisation’ of existing funding. This has been added to by the Chancellor, Philip Hammond’s claim that a ‘no deal’ would mean further austerity measures. 
  • The document also suggests that leaving the EU without a deal would have a negative impact on rail and aviation access to the continent. This is a claim that the Treasury thinks is obvious, but not necessarily shared elsewhere in Government. 
  • The Treasury also sought to “remind departments of the need to consider the financial [robustness] of commercial firms that play a role in their [no-deal Brexit] contingency plans”. The document suggests a closer involvement with businesses, and possibly that responsibility be shifted onto businesses to maintain the economy in the event of ‘no deal’.
  • In a separate development on the same day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock disclosed taxpayer funds may be required to reimburse pharmaceutical companies for some ‘no-deal’ costs. 

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw has responded to this leak by arguing that the Government is approaching Brexit planning in the same way they would respond to a catastrophe. He argued that “This is not what anyone voted for in 2016” and called on people to “take back control of this process.”

The Government argues that this is simply sensible planning should Britain crash out of the EU without a deal, a likelihood that is becoming increasingly likely. 

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