The following is an extract from a report from The Guardian which is reproduced by courtesy of Guardian News and Media Limited under their open licence policy. As Hollingbourne has been affected by Operation Stack when the M20 is closed by lorries queueing from Junction 8 to Dover with resulting local traffic chaos, the article may be of interest to Hollingbourne residents and others in Kent. The report quotes Mr Guy Platten, CEO, of the UK Chamber of Shipping.
The freight and haulage industry and Eurotunnel warned earlier this year that a port such as Dover, the busiest truck port in the UK, could face gridlock of up to 30 miles if customs checks were introduced after the UK left the European union.
The port handles 2.6m trucks a year while Eurotunnel caters for another 1.6m a year at its Le Shuttle gateway a few miles inland.
In the summer of 2015, a French ferry workers’ strike led to more than 7,000 trucks backed up the motorway almost as far as Maidstone. With as many as 16,000 trucks a day using Dover, the potential for a repeat of that episode alarms business.
Non-EU trucks at the moment have to go through customs checks in Dover and it can take 20 minutes for paperwork to be cleared for each vehicle. If there are problems with VAT or random customs checks, the truck can be delayed for hours, days or weeks.
“It can take up to an hour for a truck now, multiply that by 8,000 a day (the number of lorries on a slow day) and you can see what happens. It is going to be an absolute disaster for the ports and for our sector as well,” said Platten.
Michael Lux, a customs expert, told the Guardian in February that one elegant solution would be to handle the customs checks in Calais where space is not an issue, but this would require a political response.
Platten said ports such as Calais, Zeebrugge in Belgium and Dublin, had to be part of the solution.
“We don’t want anyone to win or lose in the Brexit negotiations because we trade on both sides,” said Platten.
Passenger ferries will also be hit if there are delays. Platten said operators such as Brittany Ferries, which relies on the UK for 80% of its traffic, were growing concerned, along with P&O Ferries, Stena Line and logistics company DFDS.
Platten said one solution may be customs checks “at the point of dispatch or point of sale” but there was nowhere in the world with a customs model similar to Dover-Calais to draw lessons from.
A frictionless and seamless border is predicated on an electronic system that would pre-clear “trusted traders” in and out of the UK.
However, 10 days ago it emerged Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs are not confident they can deliver a new electronic system in time.
A group of influential MPs warned there would be a fivefold increase in customs checks at Dover and other ports from 60m a year to 300m after Brexit.
HMRC admitted in correspondence to the Treasury select committee that it was no longer sure it can deliver a new customs declaration system for Brexit Day.
Platten predicted cargo and passenger ferry sailings to and from Dover would have to reduce unless a system was ready on time
At the April 2016 Annual Parish Assembly in the Village which included a hustings with 4 candidates for the post of Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, the subsequently elected Matthew Scott promised to press the Government to fund the costs of policing for future Operation Stacks. He subsequently confirmed this when it became clear that no solution would be found until 2018. He has been recently asked to comment on the on the above post Brexit scenario and to confirm that any additional policing costs will be covered by the Government and not the Council tax-payers of Kent. No response has been received as yet from Mr Scott or a similar one on the same subject to local MP Mrs Helen Whately.
Pictured below is a previous Operation Stack on the M20 at Hollingbourne which caused traffic chaos locally.