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Government's leaked Operation Yellowhammer no-deal report is 'absolute worse-case' scenario, says Michael Gove

A leaked Government report which suggests the effects of leaving the EU without a deal would be a three-month "meltdown" of delays at UK's ports and food and medicine shortages, outlines the "absolute worst case scenario", Michael Gove has said.

Leaked Operation Yellowhammer documents published in the Sunday Times suggest the UK will face shortages of fuel, food and medicine if it leaves the European Union without a transition deal, jamming ports and requiring a hard border in Ireland.

Operation Yellowhammer is the Government's code name for its over-arching no-deal Brexit contingency plan.

Mr Gove, the Cabinet minister in charge of no-deal planning, said the report was old and since its publication the Government has taken "significant additional steps to ensure that we are prepared to leave on October 31 deal or no-deal."

"Any prudent Government will always plan for absolutely the worst case," the former Tory leadership candidate continued.

"In the last three weeks there has been a significant acceleration in what we've been doing.

"Yes, of course there are challenges in leaving without a deal, but there are also opportunities after October 31 if we have left with a clean break."

The Sunday Times reported the Government also believes a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic will be likely, as current plans to avoid widespread checks will prove unsustainable, speculation that Mr Gove dismissed.

"The Government will not put up any infrastructure at the border.

"There's no return to a hard border we will have a system of very, very limited checks, simply where international law requires it," the 51-year-old said, but was unable to promise that the EU would reciprocate.

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt says there is "virtually no hope" of the EU and the UK reaching a new Brexit deal, since the two sides are locked in a "Mexican standoff". He adds that the EU is relying on Parliament to stop no-deal from happening, meaning it remains the default option.

The publication of the report comes as it was revealed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet the leaders of France and Germany later this week to ask for a new Brexit deal, but stresses the UK is prepared to leave the EU without one.

Mr Gove added the Government believes it is "entirely possible" to secure such an agreement with the EU before Halloween.

He also hit out at MPs who are trying to block a no-deal departure, accusing them of "trying to frustrate the Government's plans for departure.

"The sooner that everyone recognises that we are leaving on that day [October 31], the quicker we can move to a deal which not only safeguards an open border in Northern Ireland, but also safeguards the UK's economy and security and in particular the EU's economy and security."

He added those working to block no-deal were "giving heart" to EU leaders that the UK will not leave the bloc on October 31, and therefore undermining efforts to secure a new deal.

Boris Johnson will meet with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron to ask for a new deal. Credit: PA

The Sunday Times said up to 85% of lorries using the main channel crossings “may not be ready” for French customs, meaning disruption at ports would potentially last up to three months before the flow of traffic improves.

“Compiled this month by the Cabinet Office under the codename Operation Yellowhammer, the dossier offers a rare glimpse into the covert planning being carried out by the government to avert a catastrophic collapse in the nation’s infrastructure,” the newspaper reported.

“The file, marked 'official-sensitive' — requiring security clearance on a 'need to know' basis — is remarkable because it gives the most comprehensive assessment of the UK’s readiness for a no-deal Brexit.”

Kwasi Kwarteng dismissed the leaked documents as 'Project Fear'. Credit: House of Commons/PA

Asked about the Yellowhammer documents, energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News: “I think there’s a lot of scaremongering around, and a lot of people are playing into ‘Project Fear’...

"We’ve got to prepare for no-deal.”

“We will be fully prepared to leave without a deal on October 31.”

Former attorney general and vocal anti-no-deal Brexit campaigner Dominic Grieve said he was "not at all surprised" to learn about the details in the Operation Yellowhammer report, as it had been "quite apparent for months that if we leave with no-deal, there will be chaos".

He continued leaving with no-deal would "disrupt society in a massive way" and that it could take up to nine months for life in the UK to return to "an even keel".

"It's an extraordinary thing for a Government to do to its own people in peacetime," the Tory MP said.

"It's utterly unprecedented.

"I can't think of another example of a Government doing this to its own population, and yet that is what he [Boris Johnson] appears prepared to consider.

"That's the extent of his recklessness, and if I may say so, the extent of his unsuitability to hold high office."

Mr Johnson made it his mandate when he became Tory leader he would ensure the UK leaves the EU on October 31 "come what may" and "do or die".

The Prime Minister has repeatedly said the UK will leave the bloc with or without a deal by Halloween.

While Mr Johnson will this week ask the EU for a new Brexit deal, European leaders have repeatedly refused to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement which includes an Irish border insurance policy that Mr Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, agreed in November.

On Sunday, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay tweeted he had signed a piece of legislation which set in stone the repeal of the 1972 European Communities act - the laws which made Britain a member of the organisation now known as the EU.

Though the move is largely procedural, in line with previously approved laws, Mr Barclay said in a statement it was "a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back (from Brexit)".

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Late on Saturday, more than 100 MPs revealed they had written to Mr Johnson calling for an emergency recall of Parliament to discuss the Brexit situation.

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Parliament is currently on its summer recess and will not sit until the beginning of September.

“We face a national emergency, and parliament must now be recalled in August and sit permanently until October 31 so that the voices of the people can be heard, and that there can be proper scrutiny of your government,” the letter said.

The Prime Minister is coming under pressure from politicians across the political spectrum to prevent a disorderly departure, with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn vowing this week to bring down Mr Johnson’s Government in early September to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

The Labour leader has insisted he should be installed as a caretaker prime minister to stop a no-deal Brexit, if a no-confidence motion in Mr Johnson's administration succeeds, despite his plan receiving repeated blows.