No deal Brexit preparations: What is Operation Yellowhammer?

On Friday, March 29, the day Britain was due to leave the EU, MPs voted Theresa May’s Brexit deal down again. On Monday, the second set of indicative votes will be held as MPs battle to find anything at all that commands a majority in the House of Commons. Meanwhile, no deal preparations continue to ensure contingency plans are in place if, come April 12, no progress has been made and no extension granted.

The plans are based on worst-case scenarios, such as delates at the border, civil unrest, and food shortages.

Operation Yellowhammer sits alongside the government’s broader no deal preparations, and has caused alarm with reports that Cold War era plans have been dusted off.

The reason for the plan is to ensure Government has the means to take control quickly coordinate different agencies to handle any short-term disruption.

Through Operation Yellowhammer, the Government has been looking at what powers it has to invoke certain measures, such as prioritising fuel to essential services or to relaxing the rules limiting the working hours of HGV drivers.

As part of the contingency plans, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has made 3,500 troops, including reserves, available to be deployed if necessary.

There has also been an operations room set up in a bunker in Whitehall to coordinate efforts if it all goes wrong.

The MoD will not comment on exactly what role the troops could perform, only that they will “support government planning”.

The cost of Yellowhammer is part of the £1.5bn allocated by the Treasury to government departments for Brexit preparations.

The National Audit Office (NAO) released a report last month which said some no deal preparations might not be ready in time.

For example, the report said the government did not have enough time to put in place all of the infrastructure, systems and people required for fully effective border operations on day one.

For Yellowhammer to be effective, the NAO says that the “command, control and coordination” structure needs to be in place ahead of the UK leaving the EU.

So the government could decide to activate Operation Yellowhammer a few days ahead of any potential no-deal Brexit date.


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