Fuel supplies in the capital and wider south east of England could be disrupted by a no-deal Brexit, according to government documents obtained and published by the Sunday Times.
A dossier of reports compiled by the cabinet office, apparently under the codename Operation Yellowhammer, says months of border delays could “affect fuel distribution”, because traffic queues in Kent might block the Dartford crossing.
They also say government plans to remove tariffs on imported fuel if a no deal Brexit occurs could “inadvertently” result in two of the UK’s six oil refineries closing, causing industrial action which would have its own disruptive effect on the whole of the country.
The documents also warn of delays to passengers using St Pancras station, Dover and the Channel Tunnel as well as saying that the availability of medicines and fresh food are likely to be reduced – perhaps exacerbated by panic-buying – and that social care providers will be hit by rising costs.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to have talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in advance of this week’s G7 summit in Biarritz amid growing expectations that the UK will leave the European Union without signing an agreement with the 27 remaining EU member states.
In 2014, a report prepared for Johnson when he was London Mayor by his chief economics adviser Dr Gerard Lyons concluded that the capital would be best off if it remained in a reformed EU, and that in the event of leaving it a future relationship entailing the UK “having to fall back on World Trade Organisation rules” would be a “worst case scenario” that was unlikely to have to be faced (page 103). The UK will automatically fall back on WTO rules if it leaves the EU without a deal and the Institute for Government has warned that this would not “soften the blow of no deal Brexit”.
Under one of these, dubbed “one regime, two systems”, the UK would withdraw from the EU but “with goodwill on both sides” and go on to pursue a “pro-growth, reform agenda”. Under this scenario, Lyons foresaw “a short-term negative impact” on London’s economy due to uncertainty deterring business investment but with a “renegotiated status” introducing few new constraints on it. The “reform agenda” would be directed at the capital’s service sector. The UK would act positively to make new trading agreements with emerging growth markets across the world.
The second “leave” scenario, called “inward-looking” by Lyons, warned against the UK retreating into a “comfort zone’ by failing to reform along the lines he would wish and instead relying on “a larger state handing out subsidies to its clients”.
In a speech to launch the report, Johnson said the UK could take a new approach outside Europe “in a friendly way; there is no reason for hostility or rancour on either side. It we got in right, we could negotiate a generous exit, securing EFTA style access to the Common Market” and added that a “combination of a lower regulatory burden and undiminished trade access would cause exports to boom”, and that “the whole thing would be turbo-charged by new trading agreements with major partners such as China, Brazil, Russia, Australia and India”.