Civil unrest, road blockages and smuggling predicted in report

The report said the agri-food sector will be hardest hit, due to its cross-border supply chains. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The report said the agri-food sector will be hardest hit. 
Denis Staunton, 

A no-deal Brexit is likely to drive firms in Northern Ireland out of business, with civil disobedience and road blockages near the Border in Ireland, an official British government planning document says.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnston rebutted this in London today when he dismissed the document as “a worst case scenario”.

Yes, there would be some disruption – but not to the extend outlined in this report.

It predicts that Britain’s policy of no new checks on the Border is likely to prove unsustainable because of economic, legal and bio-security risks.

The Operation Yellowhammer no-deal planning document, dated August 2nd, was released on Wednesday evening, after a vote in parliament this week demanding its publication.

The British government refused to comply with MPs’ demand for the release of internal communications about plans to suspend parliament for five weeks.

Scotland’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that Boris Johnson acted unlawfully in ordering the suspension until October 14th.

The Court of Session said the suspension was unlawful because “it had the purpose of stymieing parliament” to avoid scrutiny of the prime minister’s Brexit policy.

The court said it would not order the immediate reopening of parliament because the supreme court in London is due to consider the issue next Tuesday.

The prime minister’s official spokesman made clear that parliament would be recalled if the supreme court upholds the Scottish judgment.

“We have absolute respect for the independence of the judiciary,” he said.

‘Stop trade or relocate’

The Operation Yellowhammer document says the automatic application of EU tariffs and regulatory requirements on goods crossing the Border from Northern Ireland will severely disrupt trade.

“The expectation is some businesses will stop trade or relocate to avoid paying the tariff, which will make them uncompetitive or to avoid the risk of trading illegally, while others will continue to trade, but experience higher costs which may be passed on to consumers.

“The agri-food sector will be the hardest hit, given its reliance on highly integrated cross-border supply chains and high tariffs and non-tariff barriers,” it says.

The document predicts that economic disruption and job losses will lead to civil disobedience and road blockages.

And it says smuggling will increase because of price and other differentials on each side of the Border.

“This will be particularly severe in Border communities where both criminal and dissident groups already operate with greater threat and impunity,” it says.

One paragraph in the report has been redacted but British government sources told The Irish Times that it was not related to Northern Ireland but to a commercially sensitive part of the UK economy.

Channel ports

The document also says that a no-deal Brexit could trigger major hold-ups at channel ports, shortages of some foods and delays to medicine imports.

Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) may face delays of 1½-2½ days at Dover and public disorder could increase.

Long delays at Dover would have major implications for Irish firms moving goods to and from continental EU markets through the UK, particularly perishable food products.

The document also warns that: “Protests and counter-protests will take place across the UK and may absorb significant amounts of police resource.

“There may also be a rise in public disorder and community tensions.”

Image may contain: text and outdoorThe document also says: “Low-income groups will be disproportionately affected by any price rises in food and fuel.”

It says France will impose EU mandatory controls on UK goods “on day 1 no deal” – D1ND as the document refers to it – and have built infrastructure and IT systems to manage and process customs declarations and support a risk-based control regime.

The document says: “On D1ND, between 50-85 per cent of HGVs travelling via the short Channel Straits may not be ready for French customs.

“The lack of trader readiness combined with limited space in French ports to hold ‘unready’ HGVs could reduce the flow rate to 40-60 per cent of current levels within one day as unready HGVs will fill the ports and block flow.

“The worst disruption to the short Channel Straits might last for up to 3 months before it improves by a significant level to around 50-70 per cent (due to more traders getting prepared), although there could continue to be some disruption for significantly longer.

“Disruption to flow across the short Channel Straits would also cause significant queues in Kent and delays to HGVs attempting to use the routes to travel to France.

The document warns that some fresh supplies will decrease in the UK, and that “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”. – Additional reporting: PA

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