A No Deal Brexit could lead to shortages in the UK of fresh food, medicines and petrol, travel chaos and riots, an official Cabinet document revealed last night.
The explosive paper on Operation Yellowhammer No Deal planning, which was drawn up by the Cabinet Office and published to comply with an order from MPs, set out "worst-case" outcomes.
Across five pages, it laid bare a series of potential scenarios which could become reality if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on October 31. The official release of the paper came after the Daily Mail exclusively revealed its contents last week.
The Mail told how the bombshell report delivered a series of stark warnings over a No Deal and suggested that few individuals and businesses had properly prepared for its impact because they believed Government assurances over the prospects of an agreement with Brussels. Last night's version of the document warned of:
• A rise in public disorder and "community tensions".
• "Significant and prolonged" disruption lasting for up to six months at Channel ports, with HGV flows reduced by up to 60 per cent within a day.
• Maximum delays of up to two and a half days for goods vehicles crossing the Channel;
• Disruption to medicine and medical supplies and shortage of veterinary medicines;
• Shortages of fresh food leading to risk of "panic buying" which would exacerbate the problem;
• Hundreds of thousands of people losing access to clean water because of a shortage of chemicals;
• Traffic disruption impacting supplies of petrol, potentially leading to shortages;
• Northern Ireland would be worst-hit, with severe trade disruption, business closures and job losses particularly in border areas;
• Care homes going bust due to staff shortages within months;
The document was released shortly before 8pm last night, in advance of an 11pm deadline set by Parliament on Tuesday when MPs voted to force ministers to release the document.
The Yellowhammer document features 20 "key planning assumptions" – including one which is partially redacted. It warns that: "Protests and counter-protests will take place across the UK and may absorb significant amounts of police resources. There may also be a rise in public disorder and community tensions.'
On day one of No Deal between 50 and 85 per cent of HGVs travelling across the Channel might not be ready for customs checks imposed by the French. There would be "significant queues in Kent" and "in a reasonable worst-case scenario HGVs could face maximum delays of 1.5 to 2.5 days before being able to cross the border".
If, as feared, there is "significant disruption lasting up to six months" there would be, without mitigating actions, "an impact on the supply of medicines and medical supplies".
Though there would not be an "overall shortage of food", the document says "certain types of fresh food supply will decrease" and key ingredients and packaging will also be in short supply.
It adds: "There is a risk that panic buying will cause or exacerbate food supply disruption."
Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer last night said the documents show the "severe risks" of a No Deal Brexit and demanded that Parliament be recalled.
He insisted: "It is completely irresponsible for the Government to have tried to ignore these stark warnings and prevent the public from seeing the evidence."