Boris Johnson denies lying to Queen Elizabeth, wins Brexit court case
LONDON (AP) — 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 October 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 August. 2, said customs checks meant the number of trucks crossing the main freight route between Calais and Dover would drop by between 40% and 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 travellers between Britain and the EU and uncertainty for U.K. citizens living in Europe, and it said attempts to maintain an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland would probably fail. It also 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.”
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 EU 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.”
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.
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 October 14, sparking outrage among legislators and several legal challenges.
The U.K. Supreme Court is set to consider next week whether the shutdown should be reversed, after conflicting rulings in lower courts.