News & Politics

What Might a No-Deal Brexit Look Like? Food and Fuel Shortages, Long Waits for Meds, and More

New British Prime Minister Boris Johnson now has the Brexit headache squarely in front of him. Parliament is currently in recess until early September, with the October 31 deadline for an EU-UK deal appearing to be more elusive than ever.

Johnson will meet with European leaders next week, trying to convince them to negotiate a new exit for Great Britain. But the two leaders who count the most — Angela Merkel of Germany and Emmanuel Macron of France — don’t feel any pressure to bail Johnson out. This means that a “no-deal Brexit” scenario is likely to occur.

Johnson ordered a study of the possible effects of a no-deal Brexit, which was immediately leaked to the Sunday TimesNeedless to say, the picture it paints is far from rosy.


According to Operation Yellowhammer, the cross-government study of the impact of a no-deal Brexit, the UK could face months of disruption at its ports.

And plans to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic are unlikely to prove sustainable, it adds.

The dossier says leaving the EU without a deal could lead to:

  • Fresh food becoming less available and prices rising
  • A hard Irish border after plans to avoid checks fail, sparking protests
  • Fuel becoming less available and 2,000 jobs being lost if the government sets petrol import tariffs to 0%, potentially causing two oil refineries to close
  • UK patients having to wait longer for medicines, including insulin and flu vaccines
  • A rise in public disorder and community tensions resulting from a shortage of food and drugs
  • Passengers being delayed at EU airports, Eurotunnel and Dover
  • Freight disruption at ports lasting up to three months, caused by customs checks, before traffic flow improves to 50-70% of the current rate

That actually sounds familiar. From Ghostbusters:

Dr Ray Stantz:
Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling.

Dr. Egon Spengler:
Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes…

Winston Zeddemore:
The dead rising from the grave.

Dr. Peter Venkman:
Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.

The government admits this is a “worst-case scenario,” but it’s enough to scare the beejeebees out of many Brits. The question for the EU should be how badly will damage to the British economy as a result of a no-deal Brexit affect the rest of the European economy?

Great Britain is the third-largest economy in the EU. Disruptions like those detailed in the “Operation Yellowhammer” report could have a severe effect on the rest of the continent, even tipping the EU into recession.

So it will come down to how badly the EU leadership in France and Germany want to prevent the contagion of Great Britain’s pending exit from affecting other countries that are watching the UK’s exit with great interest. Notably, Italy’s populist government has been contemplating their own exit from the EU and resentment in Greece against EU high-handedness in dealing with that country’s debt crisis has led to a surge in support for Grexit.

By hook or by crook, Great Britain is leaving the EU. How it accomplishes that and what will happen are still major unknowns.

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