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Leaked Brexit Document Depicts Government Fears Of Gridlock, Food Shortages, Unrest

A leaked Brexit document predicts a "catastrophic collapse" of the U.K.'s infrastructure if Britain leaves the EU with no deal. Above, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he speaks outside 10 Downing Street in London in July.

Britain would face gridlock at ports; shortages of medicine, fuel and food; and a hard border with Ireland if it left the European Union with no deal, according to a leaked government document.

The U.K. seems increasingly likely to crash out of the EU on Oct. 31, and the picture the government paints in a confidential document compiled under the code name Operation Yellowhammer and obtained by the Sunday Times is sobering. It details the ways government leaders are working to avert a "catastrophic collapse in the nation's infrastructure."

Trucks could be dealt 2 1/2-day delays at ports, with significant disruption lasting up to three months, which would affect fuel supplies in London and the southeast of England, according the document.

Medical supplies will also be vulnerable to "severe extended delays," since about three-quarters of the U.K.'s medicine comes across the English Channel.

Fresh food will become less available, and prices will rise, according to the document. That outcome is expected to especially hit vulnerable groups.

The government anticipates the return of a hard border with Ireland, which could spark protests and roadblocks.

It also forecasts the closure of two oil refineries after import tariffs are eliminated, causing an expected loss of 2,000 jobs, worker unrest and disruptions to fuel supplies.

A government source told the Sunday Times: "This is not Project Fear — this is the most realistic assessment of what the public face with no deal. These are likely, basic, reasonable scenarios — not the worst case."

The revelations come just before Boris Johnson takes his first official foreign trip as prime minister to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in advance of this coming weekend's G-7 summit in Biarritz, France.

The Financial Times quoted government insiders who rebutted the document, saying it is not a realistic scenario for a no-deal Brexit and pointing out that it was written under the leadership of Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May, and does not reflect the preparations spearheaded by Johnson that are now underway.

"This document is from when ministers were blocking what needed to be done to get ready to leave and the funds were not available. It has been deliberately leaked by a former minister in an attempt to influence discussions with EU leaders," a source told the paper.

British Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng also downplayed the report in an interview with a British broadcaster.

"I think there's a lot of scaremongering around and a lot of people are playing into Project Fear," he told Sky News when asked about the leaked document. "We will be fully prepared to leave without a deal on the 31st of October."

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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