Operation Yellowhammer! Photo reveals government's secret Brexit code as chancellor warns of no-deal cuts

Credit: Political Pics

The government's secret code for a no-deal Brexit has been revealed as Operation Yellowhammer - as an internal Treasury paper revealed the plan to cover costs.

The document clutched by an aide leaving the Cabinet Office revealed the government’s Civil Contingencies Secretariat held a two-day workshop last week to consider plans for a possible no-deal outcome.

It said that departments should be raising funds to cover “Yellowhammer costs” for 2019/20 through their own spending teams as well as bids to the Treasury.

And it stated: “Their first call should be internal reprioritisation.”

The document showed a summary page and no deal contingency objectives. Credit: Political Pics

Chancellor Philip Hammond, speaking after the operation was exposed, indicated Whitehall departments could be forced to cut spending programmes to help pay for the cost of a no-deal Brexit.

The Chancellor said the government would have to “refocus” its priorities if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal next March, in order to concentrate resources on dealing with the new circumstances.

In last year’s Budget, Mr Hammond announced £3 billion for Brexit preparations and said he stood ready to allocate further sums.

Philip Hammond discussed the Yellowhammer operation during a visit to the University of Strathclyde’s Technology and Innovation Centre in Glasgow Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

Downing Street stressed no department has had to cut frontline spending to pay for Brexit.

The £3 billion war chest covers the two years 2018/19 and 2019/20, and Mr Hammond said the Treasury was now looking ahead to longer-term pressures on resources.

The spotted document also revealed officials and ministers have been discussing the need to build a “communications architecture” to maintain confidence – particularly in the financial sector – in the event of no deal, as well as to plan for aviation and rail access to the EU.

Theresa May’s official spokesman said the prime minister had made clear that the government was preparing for all possible Brexit scenarios.

Codenames such as Yellowhammer were chosen at random to act as a shorthand for workstreams taking place across Government for major events, such as the Olympics or the football Champion’s League final, he said.

Asked if departments had been forced to make cuts to pay for no-deal planning, the PM’s spokesman said: “There is a pot of money available and nobody has been told to cut frontline spending elsewhere.”