Monday briefing: Brexit leak feeds No 10 blame game | World news

Top story: Threat of post-Brexit chaos overshadows PM’s Europe talks

Good morning briefers. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories you need to start the week.

Downing Street insiders have accused pro-remain former ministers of leaking an official document predicting that a no-deal Brexit could lead to food shortages and chaos at ports in an effort to undermine Boris Johnson as he travels to meet European leaders this week. Sources in No 10 blamed former members of Theresa May’s government for releasing details of scenarios being looked at by Whitehall’s Operation Yellowhammer. They include a shortage of medicines, the return of a hard border in Ireland and the prospect of police intervention being needed to quell protests. Although Michael Gove, the cabinet minister in charge of post-Brexit planning, dismissed the details as “absolutely the worst case” scenarios, the leak will embarrass the prime minister ahead of his talks with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, on Wednesday and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, on Thursday. The leak comes as Jeremy Corbyn prepares to set out his pitch to voters ahead of a possible autumn election by accusing Johnson of being a “phoney outsider”. In a speech in Corby today, the Labour leader will promise to do “everything necessary to stop a disastrous no-deal Brexit” and lay the blame for Britain’s political paralysis at the door of the Tories. The prospect of Brexit could also be prompting a surge in homebuying, according to Rightmove, as people rush to complete purchases before the uncertainty of a possible exit on 31 October.

Our columnist Matthew d’Ancona demands that the term “Project Fear” must be dropped from the political lexicon as the possibility of no deal becomes more likely and No 10 prepare to blame remainers for betraying the people. He writes: “We are in this predicament because of the serial dishonesty, manoeuvring and lust for power of those who insisted that leaving the EU would be easy.”

Duke denials – Prince Andrew says he is “appalled” by the recent sex abuse claims surrounding his former friend Jeffrey Epstein. The Duke of York has been dogged by accusations of a lack of judgment about his friendship with the disgraced financier, who committed suicide in a New York prison last weekend. As fresh stories circulated about his relationship with Epstein, a statement released by Buckingham Palace last night said: “The Duke of York has been appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes. His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent.”

‘I won’t be intimidated’ – Guardian columnist Owen Jones, who was attacked outside a pub on Saturday night, says he was targeted because of his leftwing views but vowed to continue speaking out. Jones was leaving a pub in Islington, north London in the early hours of Sunday morning when he was set upon by a group of men who knocked him to the ground and kicked him in the head. There was “no question that it was anything other than a targeted attack”, he said, adding that an emboldened, increasingly violent far right had been egged on by online “hate preachers” and parts of the media. But he vowed: “I’m not going to be intimidated. I’m not changing my politics.”

The Adrian Darya 1 has departed for Greece.

The Adrian Darya 1 has departed for Greece. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters

Tanker sails – The Iranian tanker seized by Royal Marines off Gibraltar six weeks ago left the British territory last night for the Greek port of Kalamata with its £115m cargo of oil, according to shipping data. The Grace 1 – now renamed Adrian Darya 1 – has been at the centre of a diplomatic row between Britain and Iran after it was held on 4 July for suspected breach of EU sanctions. The news came hours after Gibraltar rejected a final US request to detain the tanker, which is filled with an estimated 2.1m barrels of oil.

Pasta’s off – Diners are increasingly likely to choose Middle Eastern or Caribbean food as eating habits change and the number of Italian, Chinese and Indian restaurants in Britain decline. Vegetarian offerings are also becoming more popular, according to a survey which found that the number of restaurants fell by 3.4% in the past year, the sixth drop in succession. The decline in old favourites such as pasta was partly explained by the collapse of Jamie’s Italian in May. But tastes are also changing, with Caribbean restaurants up by 144%, Turkish and Middle Eastern restaurants surging 60% and meat-free eateries up 69%.

You must be joking – To add a bit of cheer to your Monday morning, the briefing brings you news of the officially decreed best gag of the Edinburgh fringe. The Swedish funster Olaf Falafel was the winner, receiving the Dave funniest joke of the fringe award for this joke: “I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have Florets.” Runnerup was Richard Stott with: “Someone stole my antidepressants. Whoever they are, I hope they’re happy.” Third was Milton Jones’s attempt to extract some humour from the wreck of British politics: “What’s driving Brexit? From here it looks like it’s probably the Duke of Edinburgh.”

Lunchtime read: Janey Godley, the barmaid turned standup queen

Janey Godley

Janey Godley. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Janey Godley has plotted a roundabout route to the top of standup comedy and as she prepares for a sold-out tour of Britain, she talks about how her tough upbringing and marriage into a criminal family forged her career. As a barmaid in one of Glasgow’s roughest pubs, Godley honed the comic timing and expert crowd control essential for a stand-up career. But it was still a shock for many people in the industry when she started performing at the age of 35. She says: “I spoke about my Ma being murdered, child abuse, gangsters. Back then, even comics were saying: ‘You shouldn’t talk about that.’ But I’m so glad I did.” Now her targets are more political, with Boris Johnson and Donald Trump bearing the brunt of her highly popular online political voiceovers.


In the end it took an act of God to stop Jofra Archer. In the twilight of Sunday night the umpires decided that it was so dark that the Australian batsmen could not safely face him any more, leaving the second Test at Lord’s to end as a draw. The fallout from the sight of the Steve Smith being felled by a bouncer has reignited the debate about whether sport polices the risks of concussion well enough. Mauricio Pochettino has described the decision to close the domestic summer transfer window in early August as a “massive mistake” and claims he has even persuaded Tottenham’s hard-nosed chairman, Daniel Levy, of the same thing. A week into Frank Lampard’s competitive tenure at Chelsea, he still awaits his first win after a 1-1 draw with Leicester. And after buckling under the financial pressure of going professional, Millwall Lionesses are going it alone as the London City Lionesses.


Donald Trump and his advisers have rejected fears that the US economy is heading for a recession. The US president said that while China was “eating” the pain from his trade tariffs, America was doing “tremendously well”. He added that the rest of the world was in recession, something which encouraged investors in Asia to push shares higher overnight in the hope of renewed stimulus from central banks. The FTSE100 is expected to rise this morning while the pound has crept up to $1.215 and €1.095.

The papers

Guardian front page, Monday 19 August 2019

Photograph: The Guardian

Most papers agree that the Operation Yellowhammer revelations make the best story of the day. The Times says “PM accuses ex-ministers over Brexit chaos leaks” and the Telegraph makes it more explicit: “No-deal leak blamed on Hammond’s Remainers”. The Guardian says “Tory divisions over Brexit deepen amid row over no-deal dossier leak” and the i has “Gove plays down leaked crisis plans for Brexit”. The Metro goes with “No-deal leak slammed as project fear” and the Express claims: “Project fear bid to block Boris”.

Elsewhere the Mail leads with a health story – “Doctors ordered to stop half-day closing” – while the Mirror prefers crime – “Bulger’s killer could be freed in weeks”.

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