The publication of a rather short summary of the damage being faced in the case of “no deal” brexit has been the focus of much political attention.
In a new regular feature, we ask “does it even matter?”
Some weeks ago, Rosamund Urwin published leaked “no deal” planning from the government – codenamed “Yellowhammer”. It indicated that fuel shortages, medical shortages, food price hikes and all sorts of other chaos was in prospect.
The Government – keen to keep “no deal” acceptable to the public – then lied and said it was out of date despite being produced that very month. Parliament stepped in and demanded it be published and now the Government has officially issued the same information that was leaked – chaos included.
What Has Changed?
The shift from leak to official government publication has heightened the focus on Yellowhammer. It has stopped being some sort of evidence that “remainers” within government are undermining said government and instead it has become the official position of he UK state.
The title, before the government published it, also changed – spinning it as “worst case” expectations rather than “base” expectations. But the main focus is that this is now very much information from a pro-brexit government, not remain “project fear” propoganda.
So it matters then?
In many ways the publication of Yellowhammer matters because it is a report outlining some terrible consequences of “no deal” brexit from a government that supports “no deal” as a potential outcome.
This is a bit like a used car salesman trying to sell you a car but also handing you a report that says the engine has had it, the brakes are rubbish, and the passenger side window doesn’t open properly.
“Dismissing Yellowhammer as unlikely or untrue, even coming from a government that supports “no deal”, is a likely response for many die-hards.”
Pretty much no one would buy that car. So it is valuable campaign material for those opposed to “no deal” such as the Rebel Alliance parties that have combined in Parliament to prevent it.
Or Maybe it Doesn’t Matter
For the Yellowhammer report to influence large numbers of people, however, it needs to be believed and cared about by those previously willing to accept “no deal”. After all, if it changes no minds, it probably matters little.
In this regard, many who support “no deal” do so less because of information available to them and more because of the feeling that that is Brexit and they want Brexit.
“With an election looming, Yellowhammer may not matter today but it may matter in a few weeks time when moderate voters start to have their doors knocked on.”
Dismissing it as unlikely or untrue, even against the backdrop of it coming from a government that supports “no deal”, is a likely response for many die-hards. So is simply not caring because even the chaos outlined might be deemed a price worth paying – especially by people who feel they won’t be the ones paying it.
The above plays out on the front pages of the newspapers. The Guardian reports heavily on the chaos expected while more brexity papers simply ignored it today.
The fact they ignored it, however, is useful information. Millions of people are not die-hards about brexit – either for or against. Those people may not even have heard much about Yellowhammer yet, and likely don’t much care yet.
“With a deadline for a brexit deal coming up, it might also influence government and Parliament.”
With an election looming, those millions are about to have their doors knocked on and are about to take an interest in politics again (some of them, anyway). Yellowhammer may not matter today but it may matter in a few weeks time if moderate voters start to see “no deal” in a more significant light.
It also provides a party like Labour with a defence of its position. While Tories might try to cast Labour as “remain”, Labour can now use Yellowhammer to reassure more moderate brexit supporters that it is just against the devastation of a “Tory No Deal”, which may play well to some of its base who would rather focus on other things anyway.
With a deadline for a brexit deal coming up, it might also influence government and Parliament. Such public admission that “no deal” is bad might heavily incentivise the Conservative leadership to agree a deal with the EU this month to mitigate the hit with voters. It might also heavily incentivise MPs to accept any deal to avoid such damage to the country.
*P.S. Yes, the title picture is a Yellowhammer. It’s a type of bird. A yellow one.