Boris Johnson will head to Berlin and Paris this week to call for a new Brexit agreement, as Number 10 sought to play down a secret Whitehall no-deal dossier.
The British Prime Minister is expected to tell Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron that Britain will leave the bloc on October 31 , despite leaked documents detailing the potentially dire “aftershocks” of a no-deal outcome.
Published by the Sunday Times, the “Operation Yellowhammer” documents warn that Britain will be hit with a three-month “meltdown” at its ports, a hard Irish border and shortages of food and medicine if the UK leaves without an agreement.
A senior Whitehall source told the paper: “This is not Project Fear, this is the most realistic assessment of what the public face with no deal. These are likely, basic, reasonable scenarios – not the worst case.”
According to the documents, petrol import tariffs would “inadvertently” lead to the closure of two oil refineries, while protests across the UK could “require significant amounts of police resources” in a no-deal scenario.
They also warn that Gibraltar could face delays of up to four hours at the border with Spain for “at least a few months”.
But a Number 10 source said: “This document is from when ministers were blocking what needed to be done to get ready to leave and the funds were not available.
“It has been deliberately leaked by a former minister in an attempt to influence discussions with EU leaders.
“Those obstructing preparation are no longer in Government, £2 billion of extra funding (has been) already made available, and Whitehall has been stood up to actually do the work through the daily ministerial meetings.
“The entire posture of Government has changed.”
Former Tory Minister Alastair Burt has dismissed any suggestion he and other MPs were working with Brussels to hinder London’s negotiations.
Mr Burt told BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour: “I don’t much fancy, after voting for the withdrawal agreement on three occasions, when members of the cabinet did not, to be called a collaborator in all this.
“I voted for Brexit. I voted to leave the EU, accepting the result of the referendum, and a number of my colleagues did not.
“I think that’s been a significant stumbling block to leaving the EU, not Parliament’s determination to hold the government to account and do its job.”
We don’t normally comment on leaks – but a few facts – Yellowhammer is a worst case scenario – v significant steps have been taken in the last 3 weeks to accelerate Brexit planning – and Black Swan is not an HMG doc but a film about a ballet dancer… https://t.co/lRAgavfDze
— Michael Gove (@michaelgove) August 18, 2019
Michael Gove, the Cabinet minister responsible for no-deal planning, insisted Yellowhammer represented a “worst-case scenario” and said “significant” steps have been taken in the last three weeks to accelerate Brexit planning.
Mr Johnson’s planned meetings with the French president and German chancellor come ahead of the G7 summit in Biarritz at the end of the week, where the PM is likely to meet US president Donald Trump for talks.
Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reported that up to 40 Tory MPs are backing a bid led by former Cabinet ministers Philip Hammond and David Gauke to stop a no-deal Brexit on October 31.
“The Government wouldn’t have to do anything to make that happen, because that is the law of the land as it stands.”