What is Operation Yellowhammer and What Does it Tell Us About a No Deal Brexit?

No Deal BrexitOperation Yellowhammer sounds like the sort of campaign name that a Risk player geed up on fizzy drinks and sugary treats might use as they seek to bulldoze their way to a coup in Africa.

In reality, Operation Yellowhammer is instead a series of contingency plans designed by a private government cabinet to minimise the damage caused by a No Deal Brexit.

The details in the papers are really rather concerning, and so it’s no wonder that Boris Johnson and his ministers wanted to keep them private.

However, MPs went to the polls in the Commons on Monday, and overwhelmingly they voted in favour of the Operation Yellowhammer documents being published. It was yet another hammer-blow, if you’ll pardon the pun, to Boris’ early days on Downing Street.

As mentioned, the details are, erm, ‘illuminating’, and while such notions can be taken with a slight pinch of salt – these are ‘worst case assumptions’ – these are some of the things we can all look forward to in this brave new world.

Food Prices

The humble food shop will never be the same again, according to Operation Yellowhammer, with the cost of many food products set to rise.

That’s because much of our fresh produce comes from EU based suppliers, who are able to send fruit and veg over at the current prices we pay in the shops.

But with import duty set to rise as well as delays at the border, much of this produce will not make it to the UK – and for that which does there will be a price bounty put on its head.

Other ‘critical dependencies for the food chain’ may be in short supply, and as we know from the supply-and-demand curve that pushes prices up as well.

The government is not planning for food shortages, according to the documents, but they are trying to come up with strategies to tackle what will be a decreasing availability of popular products, while others will increase in price – affecting low-income families and the vulnerable.

Helen Dickinson, of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Fresh food availability will decrease, consumer choice will decrease, and prices will rise.”

Public Disorder

Not to alarm anybody, but Operation Yellowhammer also suggests that public disorder could be a major problem as communities become even more divided on Leave and Remain lines.

As a result, protests and counter protests are likely – particularly given how the government has handled prorogation and negotiations with the EU, and these have the potential to be long-lasting and violent.

Another interesting aside of Brexit, and one that hasn’t garnered all that many column inches, is that information shared between law enforcement officials in the UK and the EU might be delayed or not forthcoming at all – that will only help to toughen the task of policing the streets.

Healthcare and Medicine

Many of the chief suppliers of medicines to the UK are in the EU, which makes the supply of much-needed drugs and treatments more difficulty to manage.

The other concern is the delay at the borders in terms of getting goods across the Channel and into the country via Dover. The papers warn of ‘significant disruption’ that could last up to six months as new import/export protocols are agreed.

The minutiae is that lorries and delivery trucks could be delayed for more than 48 hours, and that could be crucial – particularly if the UK is subject to any kind of flu epidemic or similar this winter, or the complications that come flooding or severely cold weather.

On a similar note, Operation Yellowhammer documents also suggest that some adult social care providers ‘could fail’ with the supply of low-cost workers diminished.

Energy Bills

Do you want the bad news or the even worse news?

The bad news is that some energy companies will be forced to leave the market due to the Brexit divorce bill.

And the even worse news is that those suppliers left behind will be able to increase their prices – it’s supply and demand, y’all.

Those instances will occur if the UK leaves the EU’s single energy market, which is a possibility in a No Deal.

The government has said it won’t impose tariffs on gas and electricity coming into the UK, but the price increases are still likely to come at the supply end.

And importing energy will become more expensive if the value of the pound continues to fall.

But it’s not all doom and gloom: water supply is unlikely to be affected! I’ll put up the bunting while you fetch the party snacks.

As ever, it will be low income families that are likely to be worse affected, disproportionately, to anyone else, and Operation Yellowhammer even warns of businesses going bust – particularly high street retailers, and the development of an old-school ‘black market’ for a cheaper supply of goods and services.

Still, at least we’ll have our independence, right guys? Right?