Michael Gove has warned there will be some “bumps in the road” if the UK leaves the EU without a deal - but he insisted the country is more prepared now than in the past after a secret Whitehall dossier laid bare the potential chaos of a no-deal Brexit.
Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal Brexit planning, said some concerns about no-deal Brexit have been exaggerated after the leak of documents on the government’s Operation Yellowhammer, which detailed the “most likely aftershocks” of the UK crashing out of the EU.
Published by the Sunday Times, the documents warn that Britain will be hit with a three-month “meltdown” at its ports, a hard Irish border and shortages of food and medicine if it leaves without a deal.
According to the documents, petrol import tariffs would “inadvertently” lead to the closure of two oil refineries, while protests across the UK could “require significant amounts of police resources” in a no-deal scenario.
They also warn that Gibraltar could face delays of up to four hours at the border with Spain for “at least a few months”.
On Sunday, Gove told reporters: “It is the case, as everyone knows, that if we do have a no-deal exit there will inevitably be some disruption, some bumps in the road. That’s why we want a deal.
“But it is also the case that the UK government is far more prepared now than it was in the past.”
Earlier, Gove tweeted that Yellowhammer represented a “worst-case scenario”, and a Downing Street source claimed it had been leaked by a former minister.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Gove wrote: “We don’t normally comment on leaks – but a few facts – Yellowhammer is a worst case scenario – v significant steps have been taken in the last 3 weeks to accelerate Brexit planning – and Black Swan is not an HMG doc but a film about a ballet dancer…”
A Number 10 source said: “This document is from when ministers were blocking what needed to be done to get ready to leave and the funds were not available. It has been deliberately leaked by a former minister in an attempt to influence discussions with EU leaders.
“Those obstructing preparation are no longer in Government, £2 billion of extra funding already made available and Whitehall has been stood up to actually do the work through the daily ministerial meetings. The entire posture of government has changed.”
The government of Gibraltar said the Operation Yellowhammer documents were “out of date” and based on “planning for worst case scenarios”.
Meanwhile, Tory former cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson claimed the leak was an example of the “establishment” plot to “sow fear in people’s minds”.
However, the SNP’s Stephen Gethins said the documents lay bare the “sheer havoc Scotland and the UK are hurtling towards”.
“The Tory Prime Minister is in a state of delusion and denial over the impact his extreme Brexit plans will have on essential supplies such as food, medicines and fuel,” he said.
“The worrying reality is that these internal government papers are only setting out the best-case scenario. It is clear that even in the face of disaster this Tory government simply plans to walk over the cliff-edge, dragging Scotland with it.”