Folkestone and Hythe MP hoping Brexit security and traffic flow contingency measures won't be needed in Kent

Contributed by editor on Aug 14, 2019 - 06:05 AM


Constituency matters... a weekly column by the Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins 14 August 2019

There has been a strong focus over the last week on the government’s plans for ensuring that the UK leaves the European Union on 31st October, and in particular any impact this might have on Kent.

Boris Johnson has clearly stated that he wants to UK to leave the EU with a deal in place that will allow the smooth passage of goods in and out of the country.

Nowhere is this more important than in East Kent which processes the majority of the road freight between the UK and the continent, through the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel.

However, the Prime Minister has also been firm that even if no agreement has been reached, we will still leave the EU at the end of October.

Last week Michael Gove, who is overseeing the government’s planning for Brexit, met with the authorities at the Port of Dover along with other transport and road haulage businesses.

He was also joined by the Home Secretary Priti Patel, and the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. The purpose was to discuss the detailed plans that have been prepared in case of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

The Port of Dover is confident that it is well prepared for whatever the outcome of the EU negotiations. I know as well from my meetings with the Channel Tunnel that they feel the same.

This is helped by the fact that detailed planning that was completed earlier this year, in case the UK had left the EU without a deal at the end of March. This contingency work has led to the creation of the contraflow system on the M20 which will allow lorries to queue on the coastbound carriageway between junctions 8 and 9, whilst still making it possible for two lane traffic to flow in both directions.

Just this intervention alone, along with extra lorry holding capacity that has been created both at the Tunnel and the Port over the last few years, is enough to hold the number of lorries that would have previously been held in Operation Stack.

Further to this, there are plans to use Manston Airport and the M26 to hold lorries if they were required. When we think back to the summer of 2015, and the horrendous delays that occurred, we can see how much better prepared we are now for such a situation. That year there was no contraflow on the M20, and it wasn’t possible to use either Manston nor the M26 to hold lorries.

Further to this Border Force is currently recruiting up to 1,000 new officers to help maintain security and support traffic flows at the border. That is on top of a further 900 officers who have been recruited in the last year to prepare for Brexit. And across the Border Force, more than 5,500 officers have been trained to ensure the border runs smoothly after we leave.

I hope that this contingency is not required, but it is good to know that the preparations have been made in case it is.

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