Saturday, 24 Oct 2020

'Internal border' in Kent will see lorries without permits blocked from entering

The Government has confirmed it will impose an ‘internal border’ around Kent to prevent lorries without a permit entering the county.

It comes amid fears there could be lines of 7,000 trucks at the English Channel and two-day waits to get into France immediately after the UK makes its economic break from the European Union at the end of the year.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, said a ‘Kent-access permit’ would be put in place to prevent blocks at the Channel after Brexit.

Conservative former minister and MP for Ashford, Damian Green, said in the Commons today: ‘The prospect of 7,000 trucks queuing to cross the Channel will send a chill through my constituents because we know what effect that has on all the roads in Kent and it’s disastrous.

‘Can I ask about the Government’s own preparations and specifically the Smart Freight system, which [Michael Gove] mentioned, which is essential for the smooth running of traffic across the Channel?

‘Can he give a guarantee that that system will be fully up and running and operational from January?’

Mr Gove responded: ‘That system has been developed, it’s being shared with businesses and we want to make sure that people use a relatively simple process in order to get what will become known as a “Kent-access permit”, which means that they can then proceed smoothly through Kent.’

The access permit will apply to trucks and lorries only – not regular traffic.

Some accused ministers of seeking to ‘pass the blame’ onto businesses for the ‘chaos’ caused by them over Brexit.

Labour former minister Kevin Brennan told the Commons: ‘7,000 HGVs parked end-to-end would stretch from this building to Dover. That’s the scale of the problem the Secretary of State is setting out.

‘Where are the 29 extra lorry parks going to be? His statement seems to be all about passing the blame onto business for the chaos being caused by his Government.’

The letter says that between 30% and 50% of trucks wanting to cross the Channel may not be ready for new paperwork and regulations that will come into effect on Jan. 1.

‘This could lead to maximum queues of 7,000 port-bound trucks in Kent and associated maximum delays of up to two days,’ the document said.

The delays could last at least three months until companies get used to the new systems and requirements, as the Smart Freight system will still be in a testing phase in January.

Haulage and logistics companies have accused the government of being ‘woefully unprepared’ for the changes coming in just over three months.

‘We’ve been consistently warning the government that there will be delays at ports, but they’re just not engaging with industry on coming up with solutions,’ Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said.

Sources are also concerned about how the Government will enforce this border and whether it will require police intervention.

The UK remains in a tariff-free transition period until the end of the year while negotiators try to work out a future trade relationship.

Even with a deal, Britain will be leaving the single market and customs union, meaning some new checks and trade barriers causing further disruption at the country’s ports.

A deal must be struck by October so it can be approved and ratified before the end of the year.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier is holding talks with his British counterpart, David Frost, in London today ahead of a ninth formal round of negotiations next week.

But the EU has been left infuriated by Boris Johnson’s introduction of a bill which would override parts of the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement.

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