Kent coun­cil leader warns no-deal Brexit would spread chaos across coun­try

Gulf Times - - BRITAIN -

The leader of the Con­ser­va­tive-led Kent county coun­cil has urged MPs to think “long and hard” about vot­ing against Theresa May’s Brexit deal, warn­ing that no-deal grid­lock in Dover would spread chaos around the coun­try at a cost of al­most £1.75bn a week to the econ­omy.

Af­ter pub­lish­ing stark no-deal con­tin­gency plans for the county on Thurs­day night, Paul Carter said Kent would need “boots on the ground” and gov­ern­ment re­sources to en­sure that the lo­cal and na­tional econ­omy kept mov­ing.

He was speak­ing as the gov­ern­ment’s bor­der de­liv­ery group met key stake­hold­ers re­gard­ing no-deal and Dover yes­ter­day.

He re­vealed that the gov­ern­ment still had not re­leased suf­fi­cient de­tail of its own no-deal plan­ning for Kent and called on it to act swiftly to help the coun­cil be pre­pared for the worst-case sce­nario. “The miss­ing link is the gov­ern­ment,” Carter said.

Kent ‘fac­ing grid­locked and rub­bish-strewn streets un­der no-deal Brexit’

Ac­cord­ing to the coun­cil’s up­dated con­tin­gency plan, re­leased on Thurs­day night, a no-deal Brexit could lead to rub­bish go­ing un­col­lected, chil­dren be­ing un­able to take ex­ams and coun­cil staff work­ing from home for up to six months.

The plan also con­tains stark warn­ings that morgues would be un­able to run prop­erly, wed­dings would be can­celled and hos­pi­tals could be hit by staff short­ages.

“I sin­cerely hope that we never have to im­ple­ment any of our con­tin­gency plans and that the UK has a smooth exit from Europe. How­ever, we don’t know whether or not that will be the case,” Carter said.

“Some peo­ple say this is a waste of money, but we must never for­get the chaos that we had across half of this county in 2015. It lasted 10 days. Doc­tors couldn’t get to hos­pi­tals, nurses could get to work, wed­dings were can­celled, domi­cil­iary care work­ers strug­gled to get to their clients.”

A traf­fic man­age­ment scheme, Op­er­a­tion Stack, was put into place in­volv­ing the clo­sure of the M20, but the cost to the county was £1.5mn a day and £250mn to the na­tional econ­omy.

“If we do not get a deal, the chances of dis­rup­tion are great and we should never for­get that,” Carter said. “Think long and hard would be my ad­vice to MPs vot­ing next week. Let’s get the best deal through par­lia­ment. I think Theresa May’s deal is the best on of­fer. It may not be per­fect but we need a vote for prag­ma­tism. This gives us the time to ne­go­ti­ate some of the thorny is­sues and keeps a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the EU that we need to en­sure fric­tion­less trade.”

Kent county coun­cil has been work­ing for months with lo­cal and na­tional agen­cies on emer­gency plans if the deal does not go through. “For the first time we have a plan that does not ne­ces­si­tate the M20 be­ing closed, but the miss­ing link is the gov­ern­ment. We have got to have boots on the ground and the en­force­ment pow­ers,” Carter said.

“There also needs to be a na­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tions plan with clear road sig­nage and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with hauliers and fac­to­ries to keep trucks in de­pots be­fore they are given the sig­nal to make their jour­ney south to Manston where they will be held un­til re­leased and go on down the A256 to Dover.

“We also need the gov­ern­ment to de­cide what the pri­or­ity freight for the M20 is.”

He said neigh­bour­ing coun­ties would also be hit, with High­ways Eng­land and po­lice re­sources ex­pected to be re­lo­cated to Kent to keep the roads mov­ing.

Un­der the con­tin­gency mea­sures Kent has been dis­cussing with the gov­ern­ment, a na­tional plan would be put in place to en­sure lor­ries are kept in de­pots up and down the coun­try un­til they get the call to move south to the dis­used Manston air­port near Dover, where they would be placed in a hold­ing pat­tern for “six or seven hours” be­fore be­ing re­leased to Dover.

Carter said the air­port would hold 6,000 to 7,000 lor­ries a day.

There are also plans for cros­stick­et­ing be­tween Euro­tun­nel and the ferry com­pa­nies to guard against ticket queues. The prime min­is­ter’s of­fi­cial spokesman said mem­bers of the bor­der de­liv­ery group would be ad­dress­ing key stake­hold­ers af­ter­noon to talk about no-deal readi­ness.

He said the dis­cus­sions would fo­cus on “po­ten­tial con­ges­tion around Dover and the best way of man­ag­ing it”, adding: “The prime min­is­ter has been clear that nodeal is a sce­nario which we wish to avoid.”

Asked if the gov­ern­ment would sig­nif­i­cantly ramp up no-deal plan­ning if next week’s Com­mons vote was lost, he said: “There will be dif­fer­ent de­ci­sion points for dif­fer­ent sec­tors,” adding that the process of con­tin­gency plan­ning had been “grad­ual”.

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