‘Ar­maged­don sce­nario’ of new post-Brexit cus­toms

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - News - By Paul Fran­cis

Kent’s ports and roads could be hit by chronic de­lays and traf­fic con­ges­tion af­ter Brexit, be­cause of the need to in­tro­duce new cus­toms checks.

A re­port warns that there could be al­most per­ma­nent in­sti­ga­tion of Op­er­a­tion Stack along the M20 and cites de­lays in open­ing new lorry parks as a ma­jor fac­tor.

It says the cost to the UK could be £1bn a year - and that may be a con­ser­va­tive fore­cast.

The re­port from con­sul­tancy Ox­era sets out a bleak sce­nario af­ter Brexit be­cause of the need for cus­toms of­fi­cials to con­duct sep­a­rate checks. It has based its find­ings partly on time it cur­rently takes to carry out checks on non-EU HGVs en­ter­ing the UK – an av­er­age of 45 min­utes.

Un­der cur­rent ar­range­ments agreed when the Sin­gle Mar­ket was es­tab­lished, no checks are made on goods leav­ing the UK for the EU and vice versa.

The re­port says this will change af­ter Brexit. “Ex­ten­sive reg­u­la­tion of prod­ucts, com­bined with in­creased lev­els of en­force­ment, will lead to a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the re­quire­ments at bor­ders.

“The Port of Dover has called this sce­nario ‘Ar­maged­don’, po­ten­tially lead­ing to an al­most­per­ma­nent in­sti­ga­tion of Op­er­a­tion Stack – with ex­ten­sive queues on the M20 and sur­round­ing roads in Kent.” On the po­ten­tial costs it says: “We es­ti­mate the im­pact of such a sce­nario to be at least £1bn per year.

“This is an ex­tremely con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate – it does not ac­count for the eco­nomic costs of the un­cer­tainty in­volved, the ex­tra staff needed for hauliers, ports and cus­toms of­fi­cials, the con­ges­tion as­so­ci­ated with call­ing Op­er­a­tion Stack, the land re­quired for the ad­di­tional cus­toms checks in the form of lorry parks, or of the wider eco­nomic im­pacts of jobs mov­ing over­seas due to un­cer­tainty over the op­er­a­tion of just-in-time lo­gis­tics.”

Plans for a huge lorry park off the M20 at Stan­ford, near Hythe, are cur­rently in limbo be­cause of a le­gal dis­pute.

Tim Wag­gott, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Port of Dover, said that is­sues around a new set of cus­toms clear­ance and bor­der con­trol pro­ce­dures “are acute”.

“In 2016, al­most 2.6 mil­lion freight units and over 12 mil­lion pas­sen­gers tran­sited the port. Main­tain­ing flu­id­ity at the Dover Straits to pro­tect and pro­mote UK-Euro­pean land-based trade flows must be one of the key im­per­a­tives dur­ing the Brexit talks,” he added.

Pic­ture: Gary Browne FM3945006

Op­er­a­tion Stack

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