Leaked report claims Gibraltar ‘underprepared’ for hard Brexit, No.6 says document is ‘out of date’
Gibraltar is under-prepared for a no-deal Brexit and will face disruption to border fluidity and the supply of goods, according to a UK Government document published by The Sunday Times.
Publication of the leaked document drew an immediate reaction from the Gibraltar Government, which claimed the reporting was out of date and insisted Gibraltar had since prepared well for a hard Brexit.
The so-called Yellowhammer document, which sets out the likely scenarios envisaged by the UK Government in the event of a no-deal Brexit, claims that “the imposition of checks at [Gibraltar’s] border with Spain” will disrupt the supply of goods, including food, medicine and the shipment of waste.
The 15,000 frontier workers who cross the border from Spain each day to work in Gibraltar can also expect to face delays of more than four hours for “at least a few months” if the UK crashes out, the document says.
“Prolonged border delays over the longer term are likely to adversely impact Gibraltar’s economy,” it adds.
The document claims that Gibraltar is planning for less significant border delays than set out in the UK Government’s base assessment and that Gibraltar has not invested in sufficient “contingency infrastructure” despite the Brexit delay.
“There are also concerns that it “will not have passed all necessary legislation for no-deal”, opening up the potential for legal gaps and risks.
‘OUT OF DATE’
But the claims were dismissed by the Gibraltar Government as out-of-date and based on planning for worst-case scenarios that had already been dealt with.
The government said it had “rightly” sought not to incur additional costs for no-deal contingency planning ahead of the initial March 29 Brexit deadline, but that it had since pushed ahead in numerous aspects since then.
In a statement, it said works had already been commissioned to handle additional maritime traffic should it be necessary to import goods by sea, though “we do not anticipate this will be needed”.
The Gibraltar Government said it had also addressed matters relating to the flow of persons, vehicles and goods across the frontier, in particular foodstuffs, medicines and waste.
"We do not want a no-deal Brexit,” Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said. “We think it is bad for Gibraltar. We are, nonetheless, now ready for it.”
“The matters raised in the outdated Yellow Hammer leak have already been responsibly addressed in detail.”
“Those are assumptions based on 'worst case scenarios' which we have come up with ourselves.”
“As a responsible Government, we plan for the worst case scenarios, even though we are confident they will not occur.”
Mr Picardo said all necessary legislation had now been passed except for one law relating to International Agreements which Gibraltar has agreed with the UK should not be pass yet, for logistical reasons.
He said Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia had led various teams planning for no-deal
eventualities and that work was now reaching "its unfortunate finalisation" on the assumption that a
no-deal exit "is a more likely short term possibility".
The Chief Minister said he had "full confidence" in the work done by those teams.
“This out of date reporting by The Sunday Times sets out what we ourselves had identified as our main concerns and how we resolve matters,” Mr Picardo added.
“Those resolutions and mechanisms for future flows have all now been put in place.”
“But I do want to be clear about one thing: Being out of the EU, especially falling out without a Withdrawal Agreement, is not a bed of roses and there will be some disruption.”
“A no-deal Brexit is bad for Gibraltar and it is bad for the United Kingdom and the EU. I urge all parties to work to avoid such a scenario.”
Mr Picardo said that even though Gibraltar was ready for a no-deal Brexit, crashing out of the EU would bring changes “even in the basic, underlying infrastructure of life”, including core utilities such as waste disposal.
But he insisted his government disagreed with some of the assumptions laid out in the Yellowhammer document and reported by The Sunday Times
“We do not expect four hour queues,” he said.
“We do not expect any problems with the provision of medicines, the arrival in Gibraltar of foodstuffs and other goods.”
“We do not envisage any problems with the disposal of waste.”
“But those are the planning assumptions we have responsibly prepared for.”
“That's why we are ready for the outcome we do not want to see and that we hope will be stopped by any means necessary."
In extensive coverage of the Yellowhammer document, The Sunday Times said Britain will face shortages of fuel, food and medicine if it leaves the EU without a transition deal, jamming ports and requiring a hard border in Ireland.
The newspaper said the forecasts compiled by the Cabinet Office set out the most likely aftershocks of a no-deal Brexit rather than the worst case scenarios.
They said up to 85% of lorries using the main channel crossings "may not be ready" for French customs, meaning disruption at ports would potentially last up to three months before the flow of traffic improves.
The UK Government also believes a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic will be likely as current plans to avoid widespread checks will prove unsustainable.
"Compiled this month by the Cabinet Office under the codename Operation Yellowhammer, the dossier offers a rare glimpse into the covert planning being carried out by the government to avert a catastrophic collapse in the nation's infrastructure," the newspaper reported.
"The file, marked ‘official-sensitive’ — requiring security clearance on a ‘need to know' basis — is remarkable because it gives the most comprehensive assessment of the UK’s readiness for a no-deal Brexit.”
The United Kingdom is heading towards a constitutional crisis at home and a showdown with the EU as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly vowed to leave the bloc on October 31 without a deal unless it agrees to renegotiate the Brexit divorce.
After more than three years of Brexit dominating EU affairs, the bloc has repeatedly refused to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement which includes an Irish border insurance policy that Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May, agreed in November.
Mr Johnson will this week tell French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Westminster parliament cannot stop Brexit and a new deal must be agreed if Britain is to avoid leaving the EU without one.
The prime minister is coming under pressure from politicians across the political spectrum to prevent a disorderly departure, with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn vowing this week to bring down Mr Johnson's government in early September to delay Brexit.
It is, however, unclear if MPs have the unity or power to use the British parliament to prevent a no-deal departure.
Opponents of no deal say it would be a disaster for what was once one of the West's most stable democracies.
A disorderly divorce, they say, would hurt global growth, send shockwaves through financial markets and weaken London’s claim to be the world’s preeminent financial centre.
Brexit supporters say there may be short-term disruption from a no-deal exit but that the economy will thrive if cut free from what they cast as a doomed experiment in integration that has led to Europe falling behind China and the United States.
WHAT THE YELLOWHAMMER DOCUMENT SAYS ABOUT GIBRALTAR:
This is what the contingency document says about the impact of no-deal Brexit on Gibraltar, according to The Sunday Times:
Because of the imposition of checks at its border with Spain (and the knock-on effect of delays from the UK to the EU), Gibraltar will see disruption to the supply of goods (including food and medicines) and to shipments of waste, plus delays of four-plus hours for at least a few months in the movement of frontier workers, residents and tourists across the border.
Prolonged border delays over the longer term are likely to harm Gibraltar’s economy. As on the UK mainland, cross-border services and data flow will be disrupted. Despite the time extension to the UK’s exit from the EU, Gibraltar has still not taken the decisions to invest in contingency infrastructure (such as port adjustments and waste management equipment) and there are still concerns that Gibraltar will not have passed all necessary legislation for no-deal, opening up legal risks mainly for the government of Gibraltar. Gibraltar continues to plan for less significant border delays than in our Yellowhammer scenario. Crown dependencies may be affected by supply chain disruption."
Reuters contributed reporting to this article.