Watch Now

PORT REPORT: A “no deal” Brexit will cause supply chain chaos, says secret U.K. government report

Image: Tim Reckmann/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

A no-deal British exit (Brexit) from the European Union could see truck flows on English Channel tunnel and ferry routes cut to just 50% of current levels for three months, according to newly revealed secret U.K. government documents.

Truck drivers could also face delays of up to 2.5 days before crossing into France, the papers reveal.

The U.K. government was forced to publish the so-called “Yellowhammer” documents by the British parliament on Sept. 10. Operation “Yellowhammer” is the codename used by the U.K. government for Brexit contingency planning.

Yellowhammer planning assumptions for a no-deal exit by Britain from the EU also say that U.K. truck drivers could be subject to immigration checks. Air cargo movements could be disrupted if EU member states increase immigration checks on U.K. passengers, the documents add.

As previously reported in FreightWaves, just weeks from a potential Oct. 31 no-deal Brexit, the U.K.’s political system is close to breakdown with almost every conceivable outcome in terms of European Union departure date and trade terms still on the table.

The Yellowhammer report reveals just how chaotic supply chains between the EU and the U.K. will become should Brexit occur on Halloween next month. It predicts that on the first day of a no-deal Brexit, “50-85% of heavy goods vehicles traveling via the short English Channel straits may not be ready for French customs”.

This lack of “trader readiness” combined with limited capacity at French ports to hold “unready” trucks will “fill the ports and block flow”, slashing the flow rate of trucks to 40-60 percent of current levels within one day of a no-deal Brexit.

“The worst disruption to the short Channel straits might last for up to three months before it improves by a significant level to around 50-70%, although there could continue to be some disruption for significantly longer,” said the official report.

Reduced truck flows across the Channel will result in “significant queues” on roads leading to U.K. ports. “In a worst-case scenario, heavy goods vehicles could face maximum delays of 1.5-2.5 days before being able to cross the border,” according to the Yellowhammer documents.

To make matters worse, trucks that are caught in U.K. congestion will be unable to return to the EU to collect another load.

“A proportion of logistics firm may decide to avoid the route should there be significant and prolonged disruption,” the report added.

The disrupted flow of goods will “have an impact on the supply of medicines,” including to vets, which would reduce the U.K.’s ability to “prevent and control disease outbreaks”.

Certain types of fresh food supply “will decrease” and “protests and counter-protests will take place across the U.K. and may absorb significant amounts of police resource”.

After an earlier leak of some aspects of Yellowhammer, James Hookham, deputy chief executive of the U.K.’s Freight Transport Association, said the impact of no-deal Brexit had been kept secret from the logistics industry, preventing operators from making suitable preparations.

“It is disheartening to discover that the government has been concealing the facts which business needs in order to keep Britain trading effectively,” he said.

“The news that fuel supplies could be impacted is particularly worrying, considering this would affect the movement of goods both domestically and internationally.”

Image: Tim Reckmann/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence