Earlier this week Hollingbourne Parish Council and other local Councils in the county were sent a 35 page Brexit information pack by the Kent Association of Local Councils with a request that it was not shared with residents. The Pack had been produced by the Kent Resilience Forum which is made of representatives from Kent County Council, the Department for Exiting the European, Kent Police, the Fire and Rescue service and other local emergency services plus various public authorities.
As Hollingbourne Parish Council has not been party to any non disclosure or confidentiality agreement and in general has a policy of open government, a request was made to the Kent Resilience Forum via the Kent Association of Local Councils to share the contents with local residents as Brexit is of particular interest to Hollingbourne. Amongst other issues, the village is at Junction 8 of the M20 which will be partially closed to store 2000 lorries awaiting Customs at Dover and Eurotunnel if the UK leaves the Customs Union after Brexit. Around 16,000 lorries a day cross the Channel via Dover and Eurotunnel and this accounts for 30% of the UK international trade with most of it passing through Hollingbourne.
The Resilience Forum has identified the M20 and A20 transport corridors as being likely to be affected by traffic problems with some communities possibly being cut off. Kent County Council has advised local schools that Brexit related traffic problems may prevent staff and pupils getting to and from schools and this was the subject of a BBC TV South East Today report from Hollingbourne earlier this week. Concern has also been expressed about pollution from thousands of parked lorries and the fact that there are no facilities for the waiting drivers.
Kent County Council have been tasked with finding space for some 10,000 lorries awaiting Customs as part of Operation Brock and the sites chosen include the M20 from Junction 8 in the Hollingbourne to Junction 9 in Ashford, the M26 where gates have already been installed, and Manston Airport. During Operation Stack in 2015 when Calais was partially closed for over 30 days, Hollingbourne was one of the communities affected by the decision to use the M20 as a lorry park.
Whilst waiting for a response from the Kent Resilience Forum about sharing the Brexit Pack with Hollingbourne and other residents, Kent Online yesterday reported on a copy of the Pack which had been leaked to them. The story is at https://www.kentonline.co.uk/kent/news/government-advised-councils-how-to-avoid-revealing-brexit-info-197555/
Hollingbourne Parish Council has today been informed by Terry Martin of Kent Association of Local Councils that Fiona Gaffney of the Resilience Forum has promised that a revised Pack will be shortly issued which can be placed in the public domain. Apparently it will not include any guidance on handling Freedom of Information Requests (FOI’s) which was one of the matters mentioned in the Kent Online report.
Local MP. Mrs Helen Whately, the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent is a Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for Women, formerly a Remainer, and now a supporter of Brexit and Mrs May’s deal which she says will take “ the UK out of the EU’s institutions like the single market and customs union while safeguarding jobs and the economy. It sets out strong foundations for a future trading relationship, and it protects citizens’ rights in the UK and in the EU.
I do have concerns about the backstop and the financial settlement, but I decided that overall the deal was the best way to move forwards with leaving the EU. This is why I voted for the deal. I’m disappointed that it didn’t get through because so many people have told me that they also want the country to move forwards, but instead, Parliament is stuck.”
In view of the concerns about Kent traffic problems and likely Customs delays of essential food and other items if the UK leaves the EU with no deal after Brexit, she has been asked whether constituents should stock up with food and other items. She is yet to reply but can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured below is the M20 in during Operation Stack when much of Kent was seriously affected by traffic problems.