‘Urgent government action’ needed to prepare Kent for post-Brexit trade

‘Urgent government action’ needed to prepare Kent for post-Brexit trade Credit: PA images

Kent County Council have called on the Government to ‘urgently resolve outstanding issues’ over preparations for the end of the Brexit transition period. 

At a meeting today (22 October), councillors endorsed a report which demands a series of issues are addressed by Whitehall ‘at pace’. 

It includes asking ministers to guarantee that a new website - known as the ‘check an HGV service’ - will be ready for 1 January 2021. 

Among the other problems KCC wants the government to fix: 

  • ‘Accurate traffic modelling’ has still not been provided by the Department for Transport for key parts of Kent’s road network, such as Junction 10 and 10a of the M20.  

  • ‘Detailed operational plans’ for the five inland border sites have still not been agreed, including ‘command and control’ arrangements. 

  • A ‘compliance and enforcement’ regime for the new Kent Access Permit system, with the ‘proper resources’, is not yet in place.

  • County officials are still yet to see government plans for ‘dealing with levels of freight beyond Kent’s capacity’.

Cllr Roger Gough, leader of Kent County Council (Conservative), told ITV News Meridian it’s his "absolute priority" to "minimise disruption" for people and businesses.

Above all we want clarity on ensuring what happens if we do really fill up. There is capacity to manage some 7,000 lorries at different sites across Kent, if that’s needed. I think a key question is what happens if we get beyond that – we hope we don’t – but if we do, to ensure that there is all the work done that’s necessary to hold vehicles further up in the country.

Cllr Roger Gough, Leader of Kent County Council

Operation Fennel: preparing for 7,000 lorries in worst-case scenario

The big fear is that between 30 to 50% of lorries travelling to Dover and the Eurotunnel on 1 January 2021 won’t be ready for the new UK-EU customs requirements.

It has emerged public agencies have held at least seven ‘emergency planning exercises’ for various scenarios since 1 April 2019.

Five sites in Kent are due to be used next year as part of the ‘transit infrastructure’ to try to prevent the county’s roads becoming gridlocked, according to the KCC report.

The sites are: 

The Sevington site alone is capable of holding 1,700 lorries, if there is disruption at the ports, while Manston could accommodate 4,000. But Kent officials warn the traffic management plans - dubbed Operation Fennel - ‘will not completely prevent congestion’ if there are customs holdups. 

‘Key’ online HGV check system

The online technology for lorry drivers to check they have all the right customs paperwork is described by KCC as a 'key plank' of plans for how freight will cross the border in future.

But some doubt it will be ready in time. Cllr Dara Farrell, Labour group leader on Kent County Council, told ITV News Meridian there are "serious practical issues which need addressing" but that "the government is falling short".

The government has a particularly bad record of app development this year, with the Track and Trace system, so the fact they’re not even testing this new app at the border is particularly concerning with only a few months to go.

Cllr Dara Farrell, Labour group leader on Kent County Council

Government sources claim the website will be ready by December and a version has reportedly been shared with some hauliers.

In response to the report, a Department for Transport spokesperson said:

Kent County Council’s report updates councillors on the extensive preparations that have been made for the end of the transition period by both national and local government.  We continue to work with the Kent Resilience Forum on outstanding issues including finalising a compliance and enforcement plan with the KRF and delivering communications to hauliers about border readiness.

Department for Transport spokesperson

A public consultation for local people on three of the planned Inland Border Facilities in Kent closes on Monday 26 October. You can share your views on a dedicated website

Watch Kit Bradshaw's report here: