Brexit: Dozens more lorry parks to be built across England to cope with trading chaos

Traders fear that flow of food and vital medicines will be disrupted after 1 January – even as UK may be hit by second spike of Covid-19

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Friday 04 September 2020 19:40 BST
Brexit briefing: How long until the end of the transition period?

Up to a further 29 lorry parks will be built across England in order to cope with border trading chaos after Brexit, under emergency government powers.

Local residents will have no say over the construction of the sites, which are required because of growing fears that truck drivers will face long delays to enter the EU, or be turned away altogether.

Some are in inland areas – Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Solihull – while others are in coastal trading hotspots, including in Kent, Essex, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

The move, quietly revealed after MPs left Westminster on Thursday, follows the leak of a government document that described the current border preparation plans as “unmanageable”.

Haulage bosses – including the Road Haulage Association (RHA) – have demanded an urgent meeting with ministers over a blizzard of new IT systems and a lack of training for promised customs agents.

The crisis looms regardless of whether the UK avoids crashing out without a trade deal, because the terms of any agreement will also end the current free-flow of goods with the EU.

Traders fear that the supply of food and vital medicines will be disrupted, even as the UK risks a second spike of coronavirus infections, when the Brexit transition period expires on 1 January.

The regulation triggering the order to build the lorry parks acknowledges that attempts by ports to cope with the vast new red tape have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The government is aware that the impact of coronavirus may have affected the ability of port operators and businesses to provide the necessary infrastructure by the end of the year,” it reads.

Until now, the only new lorry park identified was a 27-acre site being built in Kent to handle what has been condemned as “a vast customs bureaucracy, with costs passed on to the consumer”.

Ministers have already admitted there will be up to 10 months of border disruption, with emergency traffic control measures in Kent to last until “the end of October 2021”.

As many as 10,000 trucks a day pass through Dover and other ports, and about four-fifths of the food reaching UK supermarkets comes from the EU, according to the British Retail Consortium.

The government has pointed to the staggering £705m being spent on “infrastructure and technology at the border”, to defend its border preparations.

“We worked closely with industry in its development and will continue to do so as we move towards the end of the transition period,” a spokesperson said.

Richard Burnett, the RHA’s chief executive, urged ministers to address “untried and untested IT systems” and “the lack of customs agents and clear processes for tackling the mountain of red tape traders will face”.

“The government’s pace is simply too slow on this, and that’s why we – the people who run the UK’s supply chain – need an urgent meeting with those at the top of government dealing with Brexit preparations.”

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