Riots on the streets, food price rises and reduced medical supplies are real risks of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, a government document has said.
Ministers have published details of their Yellowhammer contingency plan, after MPs voted to force its release.
It outlines a series of “reasonable worst case assumptions” for the impact of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the paper confirmed the PM “is prepared to punish those who can least afford it”.
Michael Gove, one of Boris Johnson’s senior cabinet colleagues who has been given responsibility for no-deal planning, said “revised assumptions” will be published “in due course alongside a document outlining the mitigations the government has put in place and intends to put in place”.
However, ministers have blocked the release of communications between No 10 aides about Parliament’s suspension.
Mr Gove said MPs’ request to see e-mails, texts and WhatsApp messages from Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s chief aide, and eight other advisers in Downing Street were “unreasonable and disproportionate”.
Publishing the information, he added, would “contravene the law” and “offend against basic principles of fairness”.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption Dominic Cummings was one of those named in the request to release communications
The government sought to resist the publication of the Operation Yellowhammer document, but lost a vote on the issue in the Commons on Monday, prior to the suspension of Parliament, so it was compelled it to do so.
The six-page document, dated 2 August and leaked to the Sunday Times last month, warns of disruption at Dover and other channel crossings for at least three months, an increased risk of public disorder, and some shortages of fresh food.
‘Food price rises’
On food, the document says certain types of fresh food supply “will decrease” and “critical dependencies for the food chain” such as key ingredients “may be in shorter supply”.
It says these factors would not lead to overall food shortages “but will reduce the availability and choice of products and will increase price, which could impact vulnerable groups”.
The document also says low-income groups “will be disproportionately affected by any price rises in food and fuel”.
The flow of cross-Channel goods could face “significant disruption lasting up to six months”.
“Unmitigated, this will have an impact on the supply of medicines and medical supplies,” it says.
“The reliance of medicines and medical products’ supply chains on the short straits crossing make them particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays.”
Among its other key points are:
• Protests and counter-protests will take place across the UK
• Lorries could have to wait more than two days to cross the Channel
• Some businesses will cease trading
• There will be a growth in the black market
• Some providers of adult social care could fail
The document also warns of potential clashes if foreign fishing vessels enter British territorial waters on the day after the UK’s departure and says economic difficulties could be “exacerbated” by flooding or a flu pandemic this winter.
The BBC’s Chris Mason said some of the scenarios outlined were “stark”, but ministers were insisting the paper was not a prediction about what will happen.
The document, which, until now, was categorised as “official, sensitive”, is not an official cabinet paper. It dates from 10 days after Mr Johnson became prime minister.
Retailers said the document confirmed what they have been saying will happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“Fresh food availability will decrease, consumer choice will decrease, and prices will rise,” Helen Dickinson of the British Retail Consortium said.
And the British Medical Association described the Yellowhammer file as “alarming” and that it confirmed its warnings about no-deal, including the threat of medical supply shortages.
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “These documents confirm the severe risks of a no-deal Brexit, which Labour has worked so hard to block.
“It is completely irresponsible for the government to have tried to ignore these stark warnings and prevent the public from seeing the evidence.”
MPs voted on Monday to order the release of all internal correspondence and communications, including e-mails, texts and WhatsApp messages, between nine No 10 advisers relating to Parliament’s suspension.
But the government has said it will not comply with the MPs’ request, citing potential legal breaches of data protection and employment rights.
Human Rights In Poorest Communities May Be Most At Risk
The United Kingdom government has been forced by Parliament to make public its contingency plans in the event the UK leaves the EU without a deal. The “Operation Yellowhammer” document sets out the risks in a “no-deal” Brexit scenario. The document makes clear the severe implications for the human rights of people in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU.
The immediate rights impacts are likely to be worse for people on the lowest incomes, as their standard of living is more vulnerable than other groups to rising food and fuel prices caused by supply shortages and disruption.
The Yellowhammer document also states clearly that “certain types of fresh food supply will decrease,” and although widespread food shortages are unlikely, reduced availability will likely drive up prices. The government concedes “this could impact vulnerable groups,” and foresees additional food supply disruption caused by panic buying and stockpiling by those who can afford it.
Yellowhammer also outlines the impact on medicine supplies, affecting people’s right to health. It also flags potentially significant electricity price increases for consumers, negative impacts on social care for older people, regional fuel shortages, and the danger of civil unrest.
I have spent a lot of time recently documenting problems faced by people on the lowest incomes in the UK. Low income and single-parent households are already struggling after a decade of cuts to social security support and rising living costs. Their reliance on emergency food handouts has already skyrocketed, with many families already having sometimes to choose whether “to heat or eat”.
Yellowhammer makes clear that an active government decision to pursue a no-deal Brexit on October 31, just as winter sets in, would put their most basic rights – to feed their children, to warm their homes, to cook and wash, and to get medicine if they fall ill – even more at risk. A government which proceeds with such action regardless of the consequences would breach international human rights law.
Parliament would surely be debating these vital issues today if the government had not suspended it for five weeks. Instead, with Parliament now muted, the government is gambling recklessly with the human rights of society’s most vulnerable. – BBC Via Human Rights Watch