Although the impact of the drone attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities may hit other countries harder than the UK (with Saudi oil accounting for just 3% of British oil imports in 2017), significant disruptions to our oil industry may result from matters much closer to home.

The Operation Yellowhammer document discussing the potential consequences of a no-deal Brexit was officially published last week in response to a request from the House of Commons. The version published has its fifteenth paragraph redacted; however, an earlier version of the document had been leaked in August, and commentators have been quick to consult it to see what paragraph 15 said there.

In summary, the leaked version of paragraph 15 notes that if the EU retains fuel tariffs (as it almost certainly will, because it has other borders than that with the UK to consider) whilst the UK government follows its plan to set fuel import tariffs to zero, exporting fuel to the EU would become uncompetitive, resulting in refinery closures and/or transitions to import terminals and job losses. This is consistent with the problems we have identified with simple unilateral slashing of tariffs in an earlier article.

Now, as then, the IP-related conclusion is simple: in a situation where the government is unwilling or unable to protect industries dealing in staple products and raw materials, it is all the more important to bring innovation to bear so that IP protection can protect your bottom line. The Prime Minister has likened the UK to the Incredible Hulk, but it's worth remembering that the Hulk's superpowers aren't hereditary: his alter-ego Dr Bruce Banner was engaged in scientific research at the time he acquired them.

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