Government Brexit bible sheds light on Yellowhammer development

Written by Richard Johnstone on 9 October 2019 in News
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Michael Gove tells MPs that the government remains prepared to leave EU with no agreement at the end of this month as he publishes readiness report

Michael Gove visits Holyhead port. Photo: PA

The government has revealed further details of how the Operation Yellowhammer plans that will kick in if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal have been developed across Whitehall.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, who is heading up the government’s no-deal preparations in the Cabinet Office, published a government no deal readiness report yesterday afternoon.

The 155-page document sets out the steps the government has taken to prepare for a no-deal exit. The UK is currently set to leave the EU on 31 October, although MPs have passed a law to require prime minister Boris Johnson to seek an extension if he has not reached a deal with the EU by that date.


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The readiness report sets out the work the government has done to prepare for leaving the bloc, both prior to Boris Johnson becoming prime minster on 24 July and since.

It covers preparation across nine policy areas – borders, citizens’ rights, data protection, energy and environment, services, industry, public services and local authorities, Northern Ireland, and devolved administrations, crown dependencies and overseas territories. The report also includes information on how Yellowhammer – the government’s contingency planning operation for dealing with the worst-case scenarios resulting from a no-deal Brexit – was developed.

Details of the planning assumptions from the Yellowhammer team were published on 12 September. This analysis, which the government said was a reasonable worst-case scenario in the event the UK leaves the EU without a deal, revealed departments’ expectations of food and medicine shortages, public disorder and traffic gridlock if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal.

The readiness report confirms that Yellowhammer has been led by the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office and provides detail into how the assessment was complied.

The CCS is “coordinating cross-government contingency preparations for the UK leaving the EU if we leave without a deal”, according to the document, assisting the Department for Exiting the European Union in this work.

The contingency planning work focuses on 12 impact areas, according to the report, for which the government has developed reasonable worst-case planning assumptions, with more than one in some of the nine policy areas. These are: transport systems; movement of key goods and people across borders; healthcare services; energy and other critical industries; food and water supplies; UK nationals in the EU; law enforcement implications; banking and finance industry services; Northern Ireland; specific impacts for overseas territories and crown dependencies; and national security,” the report stated.

“The lead government departments responsible for each impact area have taken steps to define the potential impact, develop reasonable worst-case planning assumptions and put in place contingency plans to mitigate, as far as possible, potential disruption.”

According to the readiness report, the Yellowhammer assessment provides “a common, stretching, scenario for all stakeholders to plan against and for which, if plans are in place, a reasonable level of preparedness can be expected for most manifestations of the risk.

“This is a common planning methodology used by major nations, including by the UK in its National Risk Assessment. It is good risk management to anticipate reasonable worst-case scenarios.”

The report also confirmed that Yellowhammer’s operations base will provide “a coordination system across the government and partners for deployment at the time of exit, to allow the rapid identification of impacts, fast decision making and delivery of effective responses”.

This system would “bring together teams from the UK government, the Scottish and Welsh governments, the Northern Ireland Civil Service, local resilience forums and operational delivery partners or equivalent bodies across the whole UK, the Crown Dependencies, and the Overseas Territories”, the readiness report stated.

Setting out the plan to MPs, Gove said the government is prepared to leave without a deal on 31 October, and ministers have continued to say that the government may find a way around the legislation intended to ensure an extension.

He said: “We must get Brexit done so the country can move on and focus on improving the NHS, cutting crime, helping families with the cost of living and further improving school standards

“This document is a comprehensive summary of the UK’s preparedness for leaving the EU without a deal. It sets out the preparations that the government has made, how these have been intensified under the determined leadership of the Prime Minister, and also it outlines the steps that third-party organisations need to take in order to get ready.”

About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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