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'A worst-case scenario': UK expects a hard border and protests in no-deal Brexit

The Labour party in Ireland has said that Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal is the most realistic to avoid a no-deal.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Updated Aug 18th 2019, 12:50 PM

THE UK GOVERNMENT’S secret plans for a no-deal Brexit have been leaked, and show that it expects there would be a hard border in Northern Ireland in the most likely scenario.

Documents prepared by the Cabinet and leaked to The Sunday Times outline the challenges the UK would face in a no-deal Brexit. Although the Sunday Times claims that these are preparations for what would most likely happen in a no-deal, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said today that this was “a worst-case scenario”.

Gove also said that “very significant steps have been taken in the last three weeks to accelerate Brexit planning”.

The plans, which were drafted under Theresa May’s government, say that current measures to avoid a hard border in Ireland would be “unsustainable” which would lead to a hard border, and in turn could spark protests and road blocks.

This is contrast with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s assertions that a no-deal Brexit can be avoided with technological solutions, or other alternatives.

Tweeting out today in response to comments made by Paschal Donohoe earlier in the week, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said that “Ireland has been respectful of UK decision to leave EU from the start, but has always been clear that border infrastructure on Island of Ireland must be avoided”.

The backstop is the insurance, designed by UK, EU, IRL to protect the Peace Process. That’s why we need it.

The plans also predict that Northern Ireland would face “significant” energy price rises in the event of a no-deal Brexit. There’s an all-island electricity system in place since the Good Friday Agreement, which would have to be split post-Brexit.

Meanwhile, a poll published in the Sunday Times indicates that 3 out of 5 people in Northern Ireland would back custom checks along the Irish Sea to avoid a no-deal.

Other predictions

The UK’s no-deal Brexit plans, called Operation Yellowhammer, also predict shortages of food, fuel and medicines; if there are difficulties importing preservatives and packaging, this would also impact on food supplies.

There’s also a potential for fresh water shortages due to possible interruptions of imported water treatment chemicals.

Price hikes would also be likely for food and electricity, and the Cabinet plans note that this that could affect “vulnerable groups”.

IT expects that 85% of trucks using the Channel crossings “may not be ready” for no-deal customs checks at the border with France, and that this will mean serious delays.

Significant disruptions at UK ports could last up to three months, before traffic “improves” to 50%-70% of its current frictionless speed.

The document says that for Gibraltar, there will be problems in transporting food, medicines, and waste across its border with the EU. But this afternoon, HM Government of Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo said that the document was out of date.

“We do not want a no-deal Brexit. We think it is bad for Gibraltar. We are, nonetheless, now ready for it. The matters raised in the outdated Yellowhammer leak have already been responsibly addressed in detail.”

The plans also say that the date for departure, 31 October is not “to our advantage”, as the 1 November falls on a Friday. Previous Brexit dates, 29 March and 12 April, fell on Fridays meaning that the British government had a cushion to prepare.

Many of these predictions and preparations have been aired before by experts and academics, but this is the first acknowledgement of which ones the UK government sees as realistic and worth preparing for.

It’s been common for Brexiteers to decry many of the predictions for a no-deal Brexit – which the UK government itself is preparing for according to these documents – as scaremongering and ‘Project Fear’.

Reaction

Responding to the report in the Sunday Times today, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said that the proposal from the UK’s Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for a caretaker government to push the Brexit deadline back and hold a general election “is the most realistic means of avoiding the chaos that is outlined today”.

“There is an urgent need for an alternative path to come from the House of Commons.”

He said that the plans showed “the recklessness of the current strategy being pursued by the British government that will put a hard border on our island”.

We do not want this outcome. It is not in our interests or those of the people of Northern Ireland and Great Britain, but it appears that the British Government is prepared to proceed with no deal, and we must be ready.

Sinn Féin’s leader in the North Michelle O’Neill said that the reports came as no surprise.

“The island of Ireland faces its biggest and most profound challenges in a generation as the threat of a no deal Brexit becomes a growing reality in the immediate time ahead.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that the leaked plans confirmed that Johnson doesn’t care about “the complexities and fragilities of relationships in Ireland”.

We know that a no-deal Brexit will result in food and medicine shortages. Now, by the British government’s own admission, we know that trade across the border will grind to a halt. Integrated supply chains in the agri-food sector will be severed. We will experience large scale job losses and consumers will see soaring prices.

“This British government, far from sending a clear message to Brussels, is sending a clear message to people and businesses in Northern Ireland – they are willing to sacrifice our economic, political and social wellbeing to please rabid nativists in their own ranks.”

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