The UK will be hit with food, fuel and medicine shortages, a three-month period of chaos at its ports and a hard border in Ireland in a no-deal Brexit, leaked government documents have revealed.
The leaked batch of documents, compiled by the Cabinet Office under the codename “Operation Yellowhammer”, were published by the Sunday Times.
A senior Whitehall source told the newspaper: “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 newspaper claimed the documents offer the most detailed assessment of Britain’s readiness for leaving the EU without a deal, which looks increasingly likely as prime minister Boris Johnson insists on exiting by October 31.
It comes after reports the German government is expecting a no-deal Brexit.
The UK government files warned that businesses and the public are largely unprepared for a no-deal scenario and that contingency planning has been hampered by growing “EU exit fatigue”.
The leak revealed the government predicts the return of a hard border in Ireland as current plans to avoid checks will be “unsustainable”.
The government warned this may lead to protests, road blockages and “direct action”.
It predicted disruption at ports will last up to three months before traffic flow manages to reach 50% to 70% of its current rate.
In addition, months of border delays will have a significant impact on fuel distribution in London and the southeast of England, the documents said, while up to 85% of lorries using the main Channel crossing “may not be ready” for French customs, potentially leading to delays of up to two and a half days.
The document said petrol import tariffs will lead to the closure of two oil refineries, job losses of 2,000 and widespread strike action and fuel availability issues.
Because three-quarters of Britain’s medicines enter the country through the main Channel crossings, medical supplies will “be vulnerable to “severe extended delays”.
Fresh food availability will also be affected and prices will rise, which could affect “vulnerable groups”, the government warned. The cost of social care is also expected to rise.
Passengers at Dover, Eurotunnel, St Pancras and EU airports will face delays.
A Cabinet source told the Sunday Times: “Successive UK governments have a long history of failing to prepare their citizens to be resilient for their own emergencies.”