Newsletter 22 Sept 2019

Briefings For Brexit

Dear Subscribers,

Conference season kicked off with an unsurprisingly pro-Remain offering from the Liberal Democrats. Having collected various Lost Boys and Girls from the ranks of the Tory and Labour moderates – united in their refusal to grow up since 23 June 2016 – the Lib Dems at last came clean about the lengths they will go to keep us all living in Never-Brexit Land, with a new pledge to revoke Article 50. As Michael Gove writes in today’s Sunday Times, their party name is “a crime against the English language”.

We urge you to read Gove’s Sunday Times piece if you can. He writes, “In the centuries of our history I can think of no parallel for this sort of vote [the Surrender Act]. Never before has parliament instructed a prime minister to accept whatever foreign powers demand’. The Act, as Gove explains, “says the prime minister must ask the EU to keep us as a member until we agree the terms it dictates for our departure’’.

Meanwhile, Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, gave a press conference with an imaginary friend, having failed to make any real ones in the British delegation. Then we were treated to one of the most constitutionally important cases yet to be heard in the UK Supreme Court. In the unlikely case that you are short of reading-matter today, do also have a look at Richard Ekin’s powerful article in the Spectator on prorogation. Professor Ekins writes that this case “cuts to the heart of how our democracy works…it is the constitutional equivalent of a perfect storm”.

While the country awaits the Court’s decision, BfB have undertaken a comprehensive analysis of the Yellowhammer report. Our conclusions are clear: the Government’s ‘Reasonable Worst Case Planning Assumptions’ rely on outlandish assumptions which are highly unlikely to come to pass in the case of a No Deal Brexit. To allow readers to judge the matter for themselves, the full 5-page report is published on our Reports page.

For just one example of the distorted picture of No Deal being drawn by the media in the UK, take the case of the much-touted risk of a shortage of medical supplies. The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association says that there is no need to stockpile medication in Ireland. They advise that existing stocks are adequate and there is no danger of shortages despite the fact that over two-thirds of supplies come from or through the UK. Odd then that some NHS doctors say the opposite about the UK. In truth their predictions of NHS shortages are conditional on an assumption of congestion at ports, something about which they have no first-hand knowledge.


This week saw BfB co-editor Graham Gudgin give a talk on the Yellowhammer report at the Institute for Government, alongside a number of fellow panellists including Hilary Benn MP who cited a shortage of wooden pallets as a reason for shortages of food and medicines in the event of a no deal Brexit. Whatever next?

Ros Unwin, also on the panel, said that the Yellowhammer report had been leaked to her at the Sunday Times by Dominic Cummings. Could his motivation been to alarm leavers about no deal in order to make them more willing to accept whatever deal Boris Johnson agrees with the EU?

On the website this week 


Yellowhammer is no smoking gun, by Julian Jessop 

In this article, an extended version of a piece which first appeared on Brexit Central, independent economist Julian Jessop assesses the recent Yellowhammer document. He says that the gloomiest warnings depend on some very pessimistic assumptions about the impacts on cross-Channel trade, and the ability to mitigate them. Words like ‘may’, ‘might’, ‘could’ and ‘up to’ have to do an awful lot of work.

This isn’t the ‘gotcha’ moment some would like to believe. The Yellowhammer briefing still says practically nothing about the probabilities attached to the risks that it identifies, or, crucially, what actions could still be taken to mitigate them.”

Yellowhammer. A Project Fear Crescendo, by Graham Gudgin 

In this article, based on one first published on the Spectator Coffee House website, BfB co-editor Graham Gudgin argues that the Government’s Yellowhammer document contained a series of scare stories based on highly improbable assumptions. He suggests that we should it ignore it. Others fear that the damage has been done but voters have a record of ignoring project fear scare stories.

“A large proportion of the UK electorate know exaggeration when then see it and are just as likely to discount this scare story as they were the exaggerated Treasury scare stories during the referendum campaign.” 

Irresponsible media coverage of no-deal planning risks creating problems where none exist, by Lee Rotherham

In the third of our trilogy of articles on the now-infamous Operation Yellowhammer contingency planning document, historian and former foreign policy advisor Dr Lee Rotherham considers what exactly is meant by a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’, and why misrepresentation of the document by the media is so irresponsible.

It is alarming to note the persistent inability of some serious commentators to grasp the difference between contingency planning and diarising future events.”


HMG Reasonable Worst Case Planning Assumptions, by Briefings for Brexit

Here we publish, for subscribers’ reference, the full text of HM Government’s report ‘Reasonable Worst Case Planning Assumptions’ leaked to the Sunday Times (it is said by Dominic Cummings) and made available to the public in mid-September 2019. For analysis of the report, see the Blogs above. 

The Defence Threat from Hidden EU Deals, by Lt Gen Jonathon Riley 

The following important presentation was given by Lt Gen Jonathon Riley of Veterans for Britain at 61 Whitehall on Monday 2 September 2019. Lt Gen Riley discusses how Ministers have managed to sign the UK up to pillars of the European Defence Union after and in spite of the 2016 referendum result to leave the EU, whilst avoiding the necessary parliamentary scrutiny. Here he spells out what the current Withdrawal Agreement would commit us to.

“There is degree of persistency involved in pushing the UK into these measures that is almost relentless and is determined to avoid proper scrutiny at all costs.”


Social Media



We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.


Discussion continues over on Facebook too. Subscriber Ed Humphreys summarises our thoughts on the Yellowhammer very neatly: “Yellowhammer is a document that has been produced to prompt planning for the worst case, it isn’t a forecast of what will happen, which the Remainers are touting it to be.”

How you can help

We urge our supporters to ‘take back control’ in our present confusion.  There are thousands of you.  Our MPs listen to their constituents.  Write to your MPs.  Perhaps send them copies of some of our articles (or links to them), especially when they are relevant to your local conditions – for example, in rural areas, on the threat to British agriculture.  Better still, make an appointment to see them at their next surgery: they will take notice when people are lining up at their doors.  Make you views known where MPs might be wavering, or where they are working to sabotage Brexit, especially in Leave-voting and marginal constituencies, which Richard Johnson listed in his recent article.

Do also keep reading our posts, and to tell others about us.  Share links to our quality content so that others can understand how leaving the EU can be good for the UK economy and for our own democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.

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Yours Sincerely, 

Newsletter Editor

An Oxbridge PhD Student 

Dr Graham Gudgin 
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge

Professor Robert Tombs
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge

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Briefings For Britain