The cabinet office even warns of the risk of a “failure” in chemical supplies, undermining Boris Johnson’s boast that “there will be clean drinking water, whatever the deal we do”.
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Significantly, the documents set out the most likely consequences of a crash-out Brexit on 31 October, rather than worst-case scenarios.
Border delays could “affect fuel distribution”, with delays of up to two-and-a-half days for lorries and significant disruption lasting up to three months.
Medical supplies will “be vulnerable to severe extended delays” as three-quarters of the UK’s medicines enter the country via the main Channel crossings.
The Liberal Democrats said the documents, leaked to The Sunday Times, revealed that a no-deal Brexit had “wartime implications, in peacetime, all of them self-inflicted”.
“People will be horrified that Boris Johnson and the Conservatives are willing to pursue a plan that will lead to shortages of medicines, food and fuel,” said Tom Brake, the party’s Brexit spokesman.
The Operation Yellowhammer file warns that efforts to avoid the return of a hard border in Ireland are likely to prove “unsustainable”, with “significant economic, legal and biosecurity risks” that would require checks.
“Disruption to key sectors and job losses are likely to result in protests and direct action with road blockages,” it concludes.