The UK Chamber of Shipping and others have warned of the possibility of traffic chaos in Kent after Brexit in March 2019 if no Customs Union is in place. This may mean that Operation Stack becomes a regular event from between Hollingbourne at Junction 8 on the M20 and Dover and the Channel Tunnel at Cheriton in Folkestone. At the hustings for the elected post of Kent Police and Crime Commissioner in Hollingbourne Village Hall in April 2016, the subsequently successful candidate Mr Matthew Scott, said that he would press Central Government for funding for the policing of future Operation Stacks. In the previous year a succession of Operation Stacks cost the residents of Kent over £500,000 and since last year the Government has pledged a £250 million contribution towards a lorry park some distance along the M20 from Dover port and the Channel Tunnel.
Now that the Government appears to be willing to leave the EU Customs Union the real possibility emerges that the tens of thousands of vehicles and passengers that go through Kent every day to and from France will have to go through Customs. As each movement may take several minutes or more to process the possibilities of major traffic jams around Dover and the Channel Tunnel right up to Hollingbourne and and beyonds emerge. This means that Operation Stack could be become a daily event causing chaos across Kent from March 2019 onwards.
Mr Scott has been reminded of his promise in Hollingbourne Village Hall and has written the following:-
True to my word, I have been lobbying for recognition of the costs of Operation Stack by the Government. Ministers have been reviewing the way in which policing is funded, and I am arguing that policing all aspects of Kent’s roads network, including Operation Stack, are centrally funded in the future. With a General Election now taking place, the funding review is probably not going to proceed until the Summer.
Mr Scott asked Chief Inspector Tony Dyer to comment further as follows:-
As the head of roads policing for Kent, I hope I am able to provide some reassurance on this matter.
Kent Police work in partnership with the Highways agency, KCC, KFRS, Coastguard, border agency , Port of Dover and Eurotunnel at both a tactical (deploying officers and tactics) and strategic (governance and direction) level. Whilst I am not privy to any predicted cost recovery discussions for a future Op Stack, I am aware that the PCC has sought a funding review in regards to this very matter. The funding is a longer term issue and from my position the priorities are about working with the other agencies to ensure the the safety of the public and to keep Kent moving.
We are constantly horizon scanning for developments and potential issues around the ports and we work jointly to mitigate them rather than respond to them. From my part, I can assure you that tried and tested response and contingency plans exist to deal with any planned or spontaneous ‘Op Stack’ scenario.
I wish to assure you that ‘operationally’ we (Kent Police and partners) are trained and prepared to deal with an issue such as the scenario you have raised.
Local MP Mrs Helen Whately who is seeking re-election on 8th June has added:-
Turning to the Customs Union, arrangements will be determined in negotiations but in any event we must not see delays at the border and a return of Operation Stack. …… The Prime Minister has said she is determined to make sure that trade with Europe remains “as frictionless as possible” …… so I think Theresa May is right to seek a new , bespoke customs agreement with the EU.
Information about the traffic risks to Kent and Hollingbourne in particular has been previously published on this website at http://www.hollingbournepc.kentparishes.gov.uk/uk-chamber-of-shipping-and-others-warn-of-traffic-jams-on-the-m20-after-brexit/
Postscript: The election of Emmanuel Macron as President of France could make matters worse in Dover and on the M20 as he campaigned on the basis that he would tear up the Le Touquet Agreement which permits British passport checks to be carried out in Calais. Such a change may result in difficulties in Dover and the possibility of more illegal immigrants.
Pictured below is Mr Matthew Scott at the Police and Crime Commissioner Election hustings in Hollingbourne Village Hall in April 2016.