Alun Cairns was asked by BBC Wales for his reaction to the dire forecast of the possible outcome of a no-deal Brexit contained in the Government's Operation Yellowhammer document .

His response was to appear to bat it away as something of little consequence: "I've been in the cabinet for more than three years, where I've seen so many copies of these sorts of scenarios".

"We're reacting," he said. "We can [leave] the European Union without a deal in a smooth way".

If the short but devastating Yellowhammer document had been a freakish, unlikely projection, you might understand a cabinet minister wanting to reassure the public. Yet it was not produced by a Remain campaign group or a think tank with a negative take on Brexit.

It was released reluctantly by the government of which Mr Cairns is a senior member, and is based on realistic assessments made by senior civil servants based on specialist advice.

The release was reluctant because MPs had voted for its disclosure when the government refused to publish it.

It’s easy to understand why Mr Cairns and his colleagues wanted to keep the document secret.

It portrays a dystopian Britain where fresh food is scarce, where prices are rising, where there is difficulty in getting medicines delivered, where lorries are stranded at ports for periods than run into days and where riots are prone to breaking out.

 

If the EU does suddenly offer the UK what Donald Trump might describe as “a really great deal”  then Mr Cairns, Mr Johnson and the rest of the Cabinet may yet profit from playing a long game.

But it’s exceptionally difficult to imagine the EU backing down from its red lines.

Which will leave us with the appalling prospect of the no-deal scenario Operation Yellowhammer describes so graphically.

When asked by the BBC about Yellowhammer, Mr Cairns described it as a “moving dynamic”, whatever that means.

With breathtaking nonchalance he went on to say: "It is one position, a reasonable worse-case scenario, if the government didn’t react and the reality is that the government is reacting.”

He added: “We have taken positive steps. We are on track to make sure there is a smooth exit from the European Union - preferably with a deal - but if not we can honour the demand which came from the Welsh public by leaving the European Union without a deal in a smooth way”.

Mr Cairns was pressed on the warning, in the original version of the document that was leaked to the Sunday Times, that major oil refineries could be forced to close under new trade terms planned in the event of no deal.

Asked if the Valero oil refinery in Pembrokeshire was “safe”, he replied “yes” and when asked if it would close down, he replied “no”.

How can he say this? Is he privy to more information than his own government?

It’s clear from his government’s own document that very serious negative consequences are expected from no-deal.

One such consequence could, his own government says, be the closure of two oil refineries.

In such uncertain times, and with such a self-inflicted shock to the economy well within the bounds of possibility, it seems negligent, careless - even reckless - to dismiss the possibility out of hand.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford (L) and Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns (R) in the First Ministers office at the National Assembly for Wales

Ultimately, the point is that Mr Cairns’ nonchalance reflects the kind of approach we have quickly come to expect from Boris Johnson’s administration.

It’s as if the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, with all that flows from it, is some kind of political game that exists as an end in itself, regardless of what actually happens and the impact it will have on the lives of ordinary people.

Yellowhammer itself warns that it’s the most vulnerable who are likely to suffer most. Rising food prices will make the poorest members of society even poorer.

With low wages prevalent in Wales, there will be many working people whose lives would be impacted particularly negatively by a no-deal Brexit, as well as the unemployed, the disabled and retired people subsisting on the basic state pension.

Job losses will occur, with further negative impacts for many more people.

It’s people’s livelihoods and, yes, lives that are at stake.

Yet for Mr Cairns and his colleagues, a no-deal Brexit is a negotiating chip in a political game where the winner is the side that manages to outmanoeuvre its opponents.

That they should take this approach is indicative of their political bankruptcy, where real consequences for real people are put to one side and the prospect of proving a point becomes all-consuming.

There was always a chance of that when those who had campaigned for Remain, like Mr Cairns, decided for the sake of their careers that they needed to make a 180 degree turn.

To do so, you need to put to one side any concerns you previously had about the impact of Brexit – and especially a no-deal Brexit – on people’s lives.

Instead, you adopt the mantra that the people spoke in the 2016 referendum and it would be a democratic outrage to thwart their instruction to quit the EU.

When people question your change of stance, you ignore the invitation to confirm Wales and the UK would be better off outside the EU, and repeat that the people deserve to get what they voted for.

In doing so, you can seek to absolve yourself of responsibility for the disastrous course you are now pursuing.

That’s exactly what Mr Cairns and the rest of the Cabinet are doing – and they deserve to be called out for it.

It might sometimes seem that all MPs involved in creating the Brexit deadlock are equally culpable, but that is not the case.

The truly culpable are those like Mr Cairns who have taken us on a journey that could result in a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

To persist on such a course when one’s own advisers have warned of the appalling potential consequences is the height of political irresponsibility, and simply inexcusable.

Those MPs who have sacrificed their careers in order to block no-deal are the real heroes of the moment, vilified as they have been by Brexiteer fanatics.

They may be playing out the last months of their time in Parliament, but they were big enough to reject the bullying of Mr Johnson and his advisers and stand up for what they believe in.

What a contrast with Mr Cairns and his dismissive approach towards one of the most devastating reports ever produced about the consequences of a peace-time policy option.

When such a colossal proposal as leaving the EU is under consideration, leaders have a responsibility to be honest with people and give them the information they need to make considered choices. If that doesn’t happen, how much of our democracy is left?