Representatives of Hollingbourne Parish Council and other local Parish Councils today met with Maidstone Borough Council Officers in the Town Hall to learn about the possible effects on local communities of Brexit on 31st October if the UK leaves the EU Customs Union.
Mark Green and Jennifer Shepherd from Maidstone Borough Council told attendees that the Kent Resilience Forum, made up of representatives from Borough Council, Kent Police, and other organisations, expects serious traffic problems to affect the County after Brexit. Villages in the Borough from Boxley to Lenham along the A20/M20 may be badly affected and a map has been produced (please see below top and middle for a local map) which shows the areas most at risk marked in pink. It appears that a whole swathe of Kent from Headcorn right across to Stockbury on the North Downs could also be affected.
The National Audit Office has today reported that only 10% of traders have registered with the HMRC so that they can continue to have relatively seamless transits via Eurotunnel and the Dover Ferries. The remaining lorries will be allowed to park up in Kent for up to two days in order to obtain the necessary Customs paperwork before being sent back. Currently around 8000 lorries a day cross the Channel in both directions so the need for parking thousands of lorries without the necessary paperwork on the M20, at Manston, and on the M26 will create major problems.
Operation Brock on the M20 will be used for 2100 lorries between Junctions 8 and 9 when the M20/A20 between Ashford and Folkestone fills up with 1850. When the M20 is full lorries will be diverted via the A249 to Manston and then on to the Manston to the Dover road where around 6000 lorries can be held. Finally lorries will be held on the M26 which will bring most of Kent to a standstill and map of the parking locations has been produced (please see below bottom). It is expected that these problems will last for three month or until all hauliers and traders register with HMRC so that their Customs declarations can be process before their goods arrive in Kent. There will be Customs checking points across Kent and lorries that actually manage to get to Eurotunnel and Dover without the correct paperwork will be fined £300 before being sent back.
Although the Kent Resilience Forum are not prepared to publish all of the information relating to the Brexit impact on Kent because it is “officially sensitive”, attendees were advised that the traffic problems and the resulting effects could be material. The MBC representatives told the meeting that MBC was working to keep essential services going including the Crematorium where a refrigerated store is being built in case of delays. Waste collection may be a problem and collection times might be in the early hours instead of the day and collections from Hollingbourne might be subcontracted to a waste removal firm.
Attendees were asked to list their concerns including the following:
- Traffic jams and the ability of people to get to work and children to school etc.
- Availability of fuel and food which could be an issue for Hollingbourne until Woods of Hollingbourne reopens the Village Shop.
- Emergency services including ambulances, the fire brigade and the police.
- Medical services because doctors and nurses cannot reach local villages and hospital staff may not get to work.
- Vulnerable elderly people who are reliant on carers and others to do their shopping.
- Air and noise pollution from parked lorries.
- The welfare of drivers stranded on the M20 and whether local Halls and Churches could be opened as rest centres for food and drink and who will finance and man them for perhaps months at a time. The Highways Agency has previously stated that there will be no facilities for drivers.
- Disruption to farms especially those that need regular deliveries of foodstuffs plus dairy farms where the cows produce milk daily which has to be taken away.
- House to House refuse collection and collection from businesses such as public houses. Local landowners may be asked to store rubbish.
- Repairs to public services such a water, drainage, gas, and electricity if repair men cannot reach local communities.
- Economic disruption because firms cannot take deliveries or despatch goods because of traffic issues even if employees can get to work.
- Other local services including buses and postal deliveries and collections as well as the electricity supply which mainly comes from France.
The final impression was that there will not be much practical help for local communities unless a formal State of Emergency is declared and that Brexit will present challenges to a lot of Kent. More information is at http://www.kentprepared.org.uk/ and https://www.maidstone.gov.uk/home/brexit-advice . The MBC 24 hour e-mail helpline is firstname.lastname@example.org Operation Brock on the M20 is due to start at 6am on Monday 28th October.
Parliament is due to meet on Saturday 19th October to consider Brexit including whether Operation Brock will actually happen and our local MP can be contacted at email@example.com . While Parliament is sitting there will be a People’s Vote March and Rally in London. Previous ones have been supported by a number of Hollingbourne residents. More information is at https://www.peoples-vote.uk/
Pictured below is a map of Kent showing the areas most at risk from traffic problems after Brexit (top with a more detailed local map in the middle) and a map of the locations for storing thousands of lorries if the UK leaves the EU Customs Union (bottom).