Stop me if any of this sounds familiar: The U.K. parliament has issued an order that the government of Boris Johnson release the documents concerning its plan for a no-deal Brexit. As BBC News reports, Johnson has produced some rather brief and sketchy documents with whole sections that have been redacted. And when it comes to requests for information on how the government made those plans, or how Johnson decided to suspend Parliament, the government has refused to provide more. Instead, it’s claimed that providing information on how the government planned to prorogue Parliament and crash out of the E.U. would violate the rights of those at 10 Downing Street, including Johnson’s top aide.
At the same time that Parliament and the public are trying to extract the information already developed by the government on what it would really mean to face a no-deal Brexit, there’s another battle going on in the courts. The Scottish Court of Sessions (and no, I still don’t know how that ranks as compared to the U.S. court structure) ruled unanimously on Wednesday morning that Johnson had lied to the queen when providing her with the reasons that he wanted to prorogue Parliament. In response, MPs from opposition parties immediately called for the now-suspended Parliament to be reconvened. Johnson—who has started his career as prime minster by losing six straight votes—refused.
Which, again, brings everyone back to charges of authoritarianism and a lack of democracy. Johnson addressed some of those charges overnight when he did the equivalent of an “Ask me anything” on Facebook that was half Trump rally, half campaign commercial, and 200% ugly.
The results of the Scottish case will head to the U.K. Supreme Court next week, which could determine if Parliament comes back early. But there’s more at stake than just the date on which debate starts again. The Scottish court found that Johnson’s actions didn’t just break the rules of parliament, but were actually unlawful. Should the high court agree, it’s altogether likely that Johnson could be forced to resign.
Then the Conservatives might get the election they’ve been screaming for … but without Johnson to hold the Brexit constituency together. Also, as The Guardian reports, there’s a good chance that H.M. Queen Elizabeth is royally pissed.
As the former head of the Liberal Democrat Party stated, “Buckingham Palace will not be liking this one bit. Because if, as is being contended, there was information which suggested that the true purpose was the frustration of parliament, and that was not revealed to the Queen, then she would have the disadvantage of being given inaccurate or even improper advice.” The queen’s role in government is all but ceremonial, making her actions little more than a blessing of the prime minister’s statements. But when it can be demonstrated that the prime minister came to the queen in bad faith and provided false information … is the monarch still obligated to nod over a lie?
“Operation Yellowhammer,” the code name Johnson’s government assigned to analysis looking at how the nation would handle a no-deal Brexit, contains the information, or at least, informed speculation, on things a lot of Brits would like to know—how will people, money, and products move between Europe and the U.K. when Brexit is complete? What kind of shortages do they expect? How will it impact the economy? The whole thing was put together by the Cabinet office responsible for emergency planning. Because it’s an emergency plan, with some parts dealing with worst-case scenarios.
But it also seems to be an emergency plan that Johnson is less than eager to share with the public. A brief document has been released, but at least one section of that document is completely redacted. In response to the documents, Labour MP Kier Starmer has said that they make an even better case for why Parliament needs to be recalled. “These documents confirm the severe risks of a no-deal Brexit, which Labour has worked so hard to block. It is completely irresponsible for the government to have tried to ignore these stark warnings and prevent the public from seeing the evidence.”
Sunday Times reporter Rosamund Urwin reports that the most notable missing section of the document provided on Operation Yellowhammer concerns dealing with oil and gas tariffs, the possibility of related job losses, and events that could lead to localized oil shortages.