Remain Parliament Forces Government to Release Brexit Worst-Case Scenario Documents

The Yellowhammer bird. https://www.flickr.com/photos/24874528@N04/
Flickr.com/Airwolfhound

The British government has released the much-discussed ‘Yellowhammer’ documents, but refused to hand over the private messages of civil servants in response to demands made by Parliament over Brexit.

The Yellowhammer briefing paper, a Brexit wargaming document generated by the civil service under the notoriously lukewarm on Brexit government of Theresa May, was released Wednesday night after Parliament voted to demand its publication. The government has described the document as obsolete and dates to a period when the government was actively blocking Brexit preparations from being made.

Meant as an internal paper to inform planning to best prepare the country for its eventual departure from the European Union, as called for by a majority of over one million votes in the largest democratic exercise in British history, Britain’s predominantly anti-Brexit Parliament voted to have it published, but notably not documents that may have existed about the medium, or best case Brexit scenarios.

The document first came to light last month after parts of it were leaked to a British newspaper. Once comparatively watertight, the British government, civil service, and cabinet have suffered worsening leaks over the Brexit issue. This has come in part from Remain-supporting members of Parliament attending cabinet and not liking what they were hearing, and allegedly in part from anti-Brexit civil servants breaking their code of sworn neutrality and speaking to the press.

While the contents of Yellowhammer — which include worst-scenario forecasts of delays at Dover and rises in food prices — may make a splash on the front pages, it is quite possible the release won’t have the impact on the Brexit debate the remainer politicians who forced it into the open hope. To anti-Brexit partisans, the documents confirm what they already believe they know — that to leave the European Union will precipitate the end of life itself on these British isles, starting with a shortage of Spanish grapefruit.

Yet as government spokeswoman Andrea Leadsom said today ahead of their release, when she wakes up in the morning her worst-case scenario prediction is walking out of the front door and being run over by a passing bus. Thankfully for her and the rest of us, that hasn’t happened yet.

To Brexiteers, the lurid claims generated by the civil service are just the latest helping of project fear, deliberately leaked to the press to whip up a storm and written by the same mandarins who fed ex-chancellor and scaremonger general George Osborne the statistics he needed to make his apocalyptic predictions.

It is worth bearing in mind the persistent growth the United Kingdom economy is enjoying, as Germany begins to contract, while remembering in 2016 that Mr Osborne glumly told the nation just days before it went to the ballot box that merely voting for Brexit would throw Britain into a horrifying years-long recession that would deprive 800,000 people of their jobs.

The opposite happened.

The government was also ordered to hand over the private official and personal messages from a list of officials and civil services — this they refused. Responding to the vote in Parliament, Michael Gove spoke for the government and said the request itself was “inappropriate in principle and in practice, would on its own terms purport to require the government to contravene the law, and is singularly unfair to the named individuals …[and] offend against basic principles of fairness and the Civil Service duty of care towards its employees.”

Mr Gove previously accused the Parliamentarians who demanded the messages of being on a “fishing expedition”, looking for trouble.

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