At today’s meeting of Kent County Council at County Hall in Maidstone, local County Councillor Shellina Prendergast asked the Cabinet member for Transport about the Council’s policy regarding Customs Controls at Dover following Brexit which could lead to Operation Stack on the M20 becoming a daily event. The question was asked on behalf of Hollingbourne Parish Council as the village at Junction 8 of the M20 was one of the many Kent communities to suffer traffic jams when Operation Stack ran for 32 days in 2015. This was caused by problems in Calais.
Councillor Matthew Balfour, KCC Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport, and Waste said that “fluid freight movements” through Customs after Brexit in March 2019 were essential if Operation Stack was not to be regular event. He said that Operation Stack, when the ports of Calais and Dover, are closed causes problems across Kent and not just in Hollingbourne.
The Port of Dover, the Road Haulage Association, and the UK Chamber of Shipping amongst others have expressed serious concerns about the introduction of Customs Controls after Brexit and the resulting delays. The Port of Dover have publicly stated that a two minutes delay in Customs will quickly result in a 17 mile tail back on both sides of the Channel. As part of a motion put later in the meeting by the Opposition Liberal Democrat Group, it was stated that a lorry coming from the EU takes 2 minutes to go through Customs while one from outside takes 20 minutes. Hence if a 2 minute delay results in 17 mile queue, then a 20 minutes delay involving the 11,000+ trucks a day that currently cross the Channel will bring the M20, the M2, and much of Kent to a standstill.
Councillor Balfour promised that he would write to Mr Christopher Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport for an assurance that freight would run smoothly through Dover and the Channel Tunnel after Brexit.
Councillor Prendergast also asked him to respond formally to Hollingbourne Parish Council on the matter which he agreed to do.
The potential traffic problems caused by Customs Controls at Dover have been well publicised in the national media and Sainsbury’s have predicted that imported food prices will rise by 22% after Brexit because of import duty and delays in the supply chain caused by Customs Controls. With 70% of British food being imported increasing by 22% in cost with the balance suffering inflation at 3%, the arithmetic suggests that food prices will increase by 16% after Brexit.
At the time of writing lorry drivers are threatening to close the port of Calais in protest about the fines levied for carrying illegal immigrants across the Channel. Although strict security arrangements are in place many illegal immigrants break into lorries without the knowledge of the drivers. If the closure goes ahead it is likely that Operation Stack will be activated with the closure of the M20 from Dover to Hollingbourne.
Pictured below is Councillor Balfour answering the question posed by Councillor Prendergast on behalf of Hollingbourne Parish Council.