Operation Brock M20 barrier tested as Brexit negotiations reach final deadline

Tests are being carried on the M20 to see if it can cope with potential traffic problems, should there be a no deal Brexit. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Post-Brexit trade talks could continue past their deadline of Sunday, the foreign secretary has hinted.

Dominic Raab said much would rest on the phone call held between the prime minister and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen when they speak at 11am.

Talks between the UK and the EU began again at 8am but have been deadlocked for days over disagreements on fishing rights the so-called level playing field “ratchet” that would effectively tie the UK to future EU standards.

Asked on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show if talks could continue past Sunday, Mr Raab said although “finality” is needed he would “never say never”.

His comments come as tests continue on the M20 to see if it can cope with potential traffic problems, should there be a no deal Brexit. Engineers have been carrying trials with a moveable barrier between Maidstone and Ashford. The work will continue until Tuesday morning.

  • Report by ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw:    

For drivers on the M20 in Kent, Operation Brock splits the road in two, with freight traffic heading for the Continent kept on the coastbound carriageway, while those staying in this country are diverted onto the opposite side of the road.

  • Cllr Dara Farrell- Kent County Council, Lab:

The full-scale test started last night, with the motorway closed between Maidstone and Ashford so Highways England could pull their moveable barrier from the hard shoulder to the middle of the road.

The hope is that it'll prevent the need for Operation Stack, where all coastbound lorries are held to avoid gridlock at the ports.

Highways England pulled their moveable barrier from the hard shoulder to the middle of the road. Credit: Highways England

There will be disruption. It is inevitable and I think that has always been on the cards and I think anyone that didn't realise that has probably been living on the moon. The fact that so much effort has been put in by all the various bodies here in Kent to try and mitigate the impact of that I think is to be recognised and applauded.

Tudor Price- Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce

The system seems to be coping well with weekend traffic levels but this exercise runs though till Tuesday morning with the real test likely to be the start of the working  week. 

With trade deal talks in Brussels rapidly running out of road, this county is making sure it's ready to use every inch of tarmac needed to cope with the potential fallout.