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Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

Lib Dems call on Kent MPs to put county first

April 25, 2018 6:44 PM

Liberal Democrats have called on the county's MPs to put Kent and the country's interests first, and support remaining in the customs union.

As a Commons vote looks increasingly likely, MPs are being urged to put party politics aside and vote to protect more than 45,000 Kent jobs directly related to European trade.

Any disruption to free-flowing trade with the continent could have catastrophic consequences for the county. Many sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, fishing and transport rely on the customs union to be able to trade freely and easily with European customers and suppliers.

And as the UK's gateway to Europe, Kent will bear the brunt of delays and disruption caused by border checks. About 11,000 lorries pass through Dover every day and there are fears the county could face almost permanent Operation Stack if customs checks are imposed, gridlocking Kent's roads and causing untold damage to livelihoods and the economy.

Antony HookCouncillor Antony Hook, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Economic Development, said: "As the catastrophic implications of Brexit become clear, our MPs owe it to the people of Kent to defend their interests in the face of the government's disastrous and short-sighted policies.

"Remaining in the customs union would go some way towards protecting jobs and businesses, but we will continue to campaign for a people's vote on the final deal once we know the facts."

Last year Kent Liberal Democrats tabled a motion calling for Kent County Council to write to ministers asking them to "take all necessary steps to ensure to continued free flow of freight between Kent and continental Europe, at least as seamlessly as present."

It asked Parliament to consider all legal possibilities for Kent and the UK outside the EU, including retaining membership of the single market and customs union. The Channel Islands, which are not EU members yet retain access to the customs union, offer a potential model.

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. At the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee last month, Chancellor Phillip Hammond sent his clearest warning yet that Dover could 'grind to a halt', if customs checks were imposed.

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 £250m.

Kent Police also faced a hefty bill of more than £700,000 for managing the closures.