PM John­son de­nies ly­ing to queen, wins Brexit court case

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Jill Law­less

LON­DON — The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment in­sisted Thurs­day that its fore­cast of food and medicine short­ages, grid­lock at ports and riots in the streets af­ter a no-deal Brexit is an avoid­able worst-case sce­nario, as Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son de­nied mis­lead­ing Queen El­iz­a­beth II about his rea­sons for sus­pend­ing Par­lia­ment just weeks be­fore the coun­try is due to leave the Euro­pean Union.

In bet­ter news for the em­bat­tled Bri­tish leader, a Belfast court re­jected claims that the Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment’s Brexit strat­egy should be ruled il­le­gal be­cause it risked un­der­min­ing North­ern Ire­land’s peace process.

John­son took of­fice in July vow­ing to get Brexit done on the sched­uled Oct. 31 date, even if there is not a di­vorce deal to smooth the way.

But many law­mak­ers, econ­o­mists and busi­nesses fear a no-deal Brexit would be eco­nom­i­cally dev­as­tat­ing and are fight­ing him every step of the way.

This week, Par­lia­ment forced the gov­ern­ment to pub­lish its of­fi­cial as­sess­ment of the im­pact of leav­ing the EU with­out a with­drawal agree­ment.

The six-page clas­si­fied doc­u­ment, dated Aug. 2, said cus­toms checks meant the num­ber of trucks cross­ing the main freight route be­tween Calais and Dover would drop by 40% to 60% within a day of a no-deal Brexit, with dis­rup­tions last­ing up to three months.

The sup­ply of cer­tain types of fresh foods and es­sen­tial medicines would de­crease, prices would go up, and the poor would be hit hard­est, it said.

The pa­per also de­scribed ma­jor dis­rup­tions for trav­el­ers be­tween Bri­tain and the EU, and un­cer­tainty for U.K. ci­ti­zens liv­ing in Europe.

It also said attempts to main­tain an open bor­der be­tween Ire­land and North­ern Ire­land would prob­a­bly fail.

The pa­per said a no-deal exit could trig­ger ma­jor protests and even riots.

John­son in­sisted the bleak sce­nario was “not where we in­tend to end up.”

“This is a worst-case sce­nario which civil ser­vants ob­vi­ously have to pre­pare for, but in the last few months, and par­tic­u­larly in the 50 days since I’ve been prime min­is­ter, we’ve been mas­sively ac­cel­er­at­ing our prepa­ra­tions,” he said.

Op­po­si­tion politi­cians said the “Op­er­a­tion Yel­lowham­mer” doc­u­ment — the gov­ern­ment’s code name for its Brexit prepa­ra­tions — proved that John­son is reck­less to con­sider leav­ing the bloc with­out a deal.

Former At­tor­ney Gen­eral Dominic Grieve said it was ex­tra­or­di­nary that a U.K. gov­ern­ment “is con­tent on in­flict­ing on the Bri­tish public the level of dis­rup­tion which is set out in the Yel­lowham­mer pa­pers.”

De­fense Sec­re­tary Ben Wal­lace said the sce­nario was a “plan­ning as­sump­tion” and would only come true if the gov­ern­ment did noth­ing to off­set it.

“We are spend­ing the money on do­ing lots of things to mit­i­gate those as­sump­tions,” he told the BBC.

The gov­ern­ment said it would pub­lish an up­dated ver­sion of the as­sess­ment soon that would show how much progress had been made.

The gov­ern­ment re­fused to com­ply with another part of Par­lia­ment’s de­mand — that it hand over email and texts among of­fi­cials and aides dis­cussing the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to sus­pend Par­lia­ment in the run-up to the Brexit dead­line.

Michael Gove, the min­is­ter in charge of Brexit plan­ning, said the re­quest was in­ap­pro­pri­ate and dis­pro­por­tion­ate.

The or­der to re­lease the Yel­lowham­mer doc­u­ment was one of a series of blows to the gov­ern­ment by op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers and rebel Con­ser­va­tives.

They also passed a law that or­ders the gov­ern­ment to seek a three-month de­lay to Brexit if no agree­ment has been reached by late Oc­to­ber, and re­jected John­son’s call for a snap gen­eral elec­tion.

Af­ter suf­fer­ing six de­feats in the House of Com­mons in as many days, John­son sus­pended Par­lia­ment for five weeks un­til Oct. 14, spark­ing out­rage among leg­is­la­tors and sev­eral le­gal chal­lenges.

WPA POOL/GETTY

Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son took of­fice in July vow­ing to get Brexit done on Oct. 31 — deal or no deal.

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