Operation Yellowhammer planning for no-deal Brexit 'stood down'

Civil servants on no-deal secondments will return to normal duties


By David Blackman

12 Apr 2019

The government has stood down Operation Yellowhammer, its contingency planning operation for dealing with the worst-case scenarios resulting from a no-deal Brexit, following the postponement of the UK’s exit from the EU.

The Cabinet Office agreed to wind down the no-deal plans at a meeting chaired by cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill yesterday morning, according to correspondence leaked to Sky News.

The letter says: “In common with the rest of government, we have stood down our no-deal operational planning with immediate effect.


“This morning, at a meeting chaired by the cabinet secretary, we agreed that the objective is to ensure we wind down our no-deal planning in a careful, considered and orderly way.”

The decision follows an agreement between the EU’s Council of Ministers and the UK to push back the date of Brexit to 31 October following parliament’s failure to pass prime minister Theresa May’s withdrawal deal. 

It is understood that Operation Yellowhammer is being wound down, but there are conflicting reports about the extent to which no-deal planning within departments will continue. 

And the Guardian has reported that civil servants, who had been seconded from elsewhere to prepare for a no deal Brexit, will return to their normal departmental duties.

The newspaper also reported that senior civil servants were discussing with politicians what to do with the estimated 4,500 new civil servants who have been recruited to carry out no-deal preparations, given that they may not be needed for another six months.

Sedwill and civil service chief executive John Manzoni recently revealed that 16,118 civil servants had either been redeployed or recruited to fill EU exit related posts.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “As a responsible government, we’ve been preparing for over two years to minimise any disruption in the event of no deal. In light of this week’s developments, departments will make sensible decisions about the timing and pace at which some of this work is progressing given that the date we leave the EU has changed, but we will absolutely continue to make all necessary preparations.”

The winding down of no deal preparations includes Operation Brock, which was set up to reduce the risk of gridlock on the M20, the main trunk road connecting the Channel ports of Dover and Folkstone.

Work has started on removing the contraflow lane on the M20’s London bound carriageway, which was designed to reduce the risk of gridlock on the motorway caused by customs checks on goods entering by ferry. 

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