Ports chaos warning ‘just scare tactics’
MINISTERS were yesterday accused of a fresh Project Fear propaganda blitz after the Government warned that a no-deal Brexit could cause six months of chaos on key cross-Channel routes.
Ferries between Dover and Calais and traffic using the Channel Tunnel could be disrupted until the end of September 2019, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
He made the forecast in a letter to the NHS and the pharmaceutical industry.
He also said the Government was consulting on plans for chemists to ration drugs so patients can have medicines in the event of shortages.
But Brexiteer Tory MP Andrew Bridgen rubbished the claim as “Project Fear on steroids” ahead of next week’s crunch Commons vote.
He said: “It’s the last throw of the dice from the Prime Minister who is desperate to get MPs to vote for her withdrawal deal.”
In his letter, Mr Hancock said that the short straits crossings into Dover and Folkestone would be most vulnerable.
He wrote: “The revised cross-Government planning assumptions show that there will be significantly reduced access across the short straits for up to six months. This is very much a worst-case scenario.
“However, as a responsible Government, we have a duty to plan for all scenarios.”
Mr Hancock also suggested that plans to have drug firms stockpile six weeks of supplies might not go far enough.
He wrote: “In areas where we cannot tolerate significant risk to the flow of goods, such as with medicines and medical products, we need to have contingency plans in place for this worst-case planning assumption.
“This means that whilst the six-week stockpiling activities remain a critical part of our contingency plans, this now needs to be supplemented with additional actions.”
Ministers are drawing up plans to fly in vital drugs and give priority to lorries with medical supplies at gridlocked ports.
Kent Council’s leader Paul Carter called for emergency measures to prevent lorries entering the county.
He said: “We now need far more input and information from national Government in how they are going to work with us.
“There must be a national freight transport plan which, when necessary, can hold lorries back from coming into Kent.”
Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said: “Pharmaceutical companies continue to do everything in their power to make sure that patients get access to medicines whatever the Brexit scenario.
“However, there are things which are out of our control.
“Today’s update on potential border delays for six months in a no-deal scenario is stark. Stockpiling more medicines is not the solution to this problem.
“With just 16 weeks until the UK leaves the EU, we need the Government to take immediate action to open up alternative supply routes between the UK and Europe and tell companies so that they can make plans.”
Minister’s warning over key Channel routes dismissed as propaganda