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Johnson to meet EU leaders as Number 10 plays down Whitehall no-deal dossier

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The ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ documents warn that Britain will be hit with a three-month ‘meltdown’ at its ports in a no-deal scenario.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson will head to Berlin and Paris this week to call for a new Brexit agreement, as Number 10 sought to play down a secret Whitehall no-deal dossier.

The Prime Minister is expected to tell Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron that Britain will leave the bloc on October 31 , despite leaked documents detailing the potentially dire “aftershocks” of a no-deal outcome.

Published by the Sunday Times, the “Operation Yellowhammer” documents warn that Britain will be hit with a three-month “meltdown” at its ports, a hard Irish border and shortages of food and medicine if the UK leaves without an agreement.

A senior Whitehall source told the paper: “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.”

According to the documents, petrol import tariffs would “inadvertently” lead to the closure of two oil refineries, while protests across the UK could “require significant amounts of police resources” in a no-deal scenario.

They also warn that Gibraltar could face delays of up to four hours at the border with Spain for “at least a few months”.

But a Number 10 source said: “This document is from when ministers were blocking what needed to be done to get ready to leave and the funds were not available.

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“It has been deliberately leaked by a former minister in an attempt to influence discussions with EU leaders.

“Those obstructing preparation are no longer in Government, £2 billion of extra funding (has been) already made available, and Whitehall has been stood up to actually do the work through the daily ministerial meetings.

“The entire posture of Government has changed.”

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Former Tory Minister Alastair Burt has dismissed any suggestion he and other MPs were working with Brussels to hinder London’s negotiations.

Mr Burt told BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour: “I don’t much fancy, after voting for the withdrawal agreement on three occasions, when members of the cabinet did not, to be called a collaborator in all this.

“I voted for Brexit. I voted to leave the EU, accepting the result of the referendum, and a number of my colleagues did not.

“I think that’s been a significant stumbling block to leaving the EU, not Parliament’s determination to hold the government to account and do its job.”

Michael Gove, the Cabinet minister responsible for no-deal planning, insisted Yellowhammer represented a “worst-case scenario” and said “significant” steps have been taken in the last three weeks to accelerate Brexit planning.

Mr Johnson’s planned meetings with the French president and German chancellor come ahead of the G7 summit in Biarritz at the end of the week, where the PM is likely to meet US president Donald Trump for talks.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reported that up to 40 Tory MPs are backing a bid led by former Cabinet ministers Philip Hammond and David Gauke to stop a no-deal Brexit on October 31.

Last week the former chancellor and 20 other senior Tories were said to have written to the PM to say his demands to abolish the backstop “set the bar so high that there is no realistic probability of a deal being done”.

Amid speculation that the Government is preparing for an election owing to the Brexit crisis, Jeremy Corbyn will use a speech on Monday to say such a vote would provide a “once-in-a-generation chance” for a change of direction in politics.

On a visit to Northamptonshire, the Labour leader will set out his vision to rebuild Britain and vow to do “everything necessary” to prevent a no-deal exit.

It came as former cabinet secretary Lord Butler of Brockwell said Mr Johnson would need to have a “good reason” not to hold a general election as early as possible if he loses a no-confidence vote.

The crossbench peer told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: “I think he would have to have a good reason for the general election not following very immediately after the no-confidence vote and the expiry of the 14-day period. But there might be such a reason.

“And of course, during that time, 31st October came, the default position is that we do leave on 31st October.

“The Government wouldn’t have to do anything to make that happen, because that is the law of the land as it stands.”

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