The leaking of a confidential British government report to The Sunday Times in London has added new weight to the accusation that the Conservative Party administration in Britain has been lying all along about the imposition of a hard border in Ireland. The document makes it clear that maintaining an open frontier around the north-eastern corner of the island after a no-deal Brexit, or by inference any watered down agreement with the European Union that removes the peace-saving backstop protocol, is “unsustainable”. Furthermore the authors of the dossier fully expect that the hardening of the British border around the Six Counties will lead to civil unrest and “direct action” in the disputed region, which of course risks undermining the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and raises the prospects of a return to sustained political conflict after two decades of relative stability.
As part of Britain’s much-rumoured Operation Yellowhammer, the contingency plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the EU, the Cabinet Office document, labelled “official-sensitive” and requiring a top-level “need to know” security clearance, notes the following likely outcomes of a no-deal exit:
- The north of Ireland will almost certainly see the return of a security frontier with the rest of the island, civil unrest and “direct action” emerging as free cross-border movement is curtailed or blocked by the United Kingdom
- The all-Ireland electricity market will no longer have legal validity under UK law and could collapse
- The UK will revert to fully “third country” status with the European Union
- Fuel supplies could be disrupted, with oil refineries shutting and thousands of employees losing their jobs
- In Gibraltar some 15,000 employees who cross the border from Spain every day will face hours of delays for months
- Up to 85% of lorries using Channel seaports will not be ready for customs checks in France, with disruptions lasting for at least three months
- Supplies of some fresh foods will experience a rapid fall with hundreds of thousands of customers affected by water supplies
- Vital medicines could perish on unrefrigerated lorries stuck at seaports, with disruptions lasting up to six months
- Passengers travelling to and from the EU could be subject to more immigration checks at sea and airports as well as the Channel Tunnel
- Hundreds of EU-registered boats currently fishing in UK waters would be deemed to be acting illegally, leading to clashes at sea
- The “fragile” care industry could be hit by rising inflation and small business operators could collapse within three months
As the report by senior UK civil servants to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his ministerial colleagues makes clear, the above predictions are baseline ones and do not take into account worse-case scenarios. These are the optimistic predictions for a no-deal Brexit.