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Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

Kent Lib Dems demand answers over Brexit gridlock

March 8, 2018 2:54 PM

Kent Liberal Democrats are demanding assurance from the Conservative administration on Kent County Council that the county will not face gridlock should Brexit go ahead in March 2019.

At the County Council meeting next Thursday, opposition leader Rob Bird will ask Mike Whiting, Cabinet Member for Environment Rob Birdand Transport, if he will echo the promises made by Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, earlier this month that the Government will ensure free-flowing trade post Brexit *.

Rob Bird will also ask for confirmation from KCC that they are satisfied that Highways England can maintain a free-flowing M20 from next March whenever there is congestion at the Port of Dover. As yet the Department for Transport have given no details of their proposed alternative to Operation Stack.

About 11,000 lorries pass through Dover every day and there is a real risk the county could face almost permanent Operation Stack if customs checks are imposed at the port.

In July 2015, Operation Stack gridlocked Kent for several weeks, with queues of lorries stretching more than 30 miles down the M20.

The cost of the disruption to the UK economy has been estimated by the Freight Transport Association at more than £250 million. Kent Police also faced a hefty bill of more than £700,000 for managing the closures.

Rob at Dover with Susan & TomTo put the risk into perspective, a lorry from within the EU typically takes two minutes to clear customs at Dover, while a lorry from outside the EU takes 20 minutes, according to evidence presented to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

Rob Bird said: "It is the people and businesses of Kent who will bear the brunt of failure to ensure a free-flowing border should Brexit go ahead. We know the consequences all too well - 30 mile queues blocking the M20, gridlocked roads and millions of pounds worth of lost business and policing costs.

"So, does the Government have a technological solution to keep the lorries moving through Dover, or not? The Conservatives keep promising 'solutions' to the challenges of Brexit but they still haven't put any in place for Kent. And there's only 12 months to go!

"Brexit is a Conservative project, and it is up to Conservatives at every level of Government to ensure we won't be worse off by leaving the EU. If they can't, then Kent will pay a very heavy price."

* Note: Rob Bird was referring to the reply given by The Secretary of State to a question from Damian Green, MP for Ashford, who asked: "The Secretary of State is, I know, aware of the extreme urgency of finding a solution to this matter. Even if we assume a full implementation period after Brexit, we could be less than two years away from new customs arrangements at Dover, and problems there could be disastrous not just for roads across Kent, but for the national road haulage industry. Can he assure us that, by the time of Brexit, sufficient off-road parking spaces will be available to avoid a recurrence of Operation Stack?"

Mr Grayling's response was: "There are two points that I should make. First, on the border, it is absolutely the intent of this Government to maintain a free-flowing border; that is of paramount importance. The other point, be absolutely clear, is that we will have a solution in place for next March which keeps the M20 flowing in both directions and provides a solution if there is congestion at the ports; and that we intend to move beyond that and deliver a long-term solution, which will not only deal with the issue of trouble at the ports, but provide some respite to Kent residents, who I know are fed up with having lorries simply parking on their local roads."

Click here to read the full interchange between the Secretary of State, Damian Green and other MPs on this subject.