Brexit: Ministers brace for no-deal disruption with £60m plans for motorway barrier

'Kent deserves better than being turned into a car park because of Boris Johnson’s reckless unwillingness to take a no-deal off the table,' say Lib Dems

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Monday 17 February 2020 17:16
Brexit briefing: How long until the end of the transition period?

The government is bracing for Brexit disruption at the end of the year with £60m plans for a moveable concrete barrier to prevent traffic jams sparked by cross-Channel chaos.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that no-deal plans for metal barriers on the M20 motorway in Kent have been scrapped in favour of a San Francisco-style moveable barrier.

The new concrete blockade can be erected within hours and will replace the Operation Brock barriers, which were removed in January and would have taken a month to reinstall.

Critics said the announcement "stinks of a Conservative government fully expecting disruption" and urged Boris Johnson to take the prospect of a no-deal Brexit off the table.

The prime minister has repeatedly insisted that the UK has left the EU with a deal so a chaotic departure is no longer a threat.

But his answers gloss over the real threat of disruption if the UK fails to secure a trade deal at the end of the Brexit transition period ends in December.

Downing Street is pursuing a Canada-style trade deal with the EU but has made it clear the UK walk away with an "Australian-style" agreement - which a senior EU figure dubbed "code for a no-deal".

It comes after the Department for Transport (DfT) was derided for spending nearly £50,000 organising a fake traffic jam as part of its no-deal preparations last year.

The department pointedly made no mention of Brexit in its announcement of the new moveable barrier, which has been deployed in Sydney, Vancouver and San Francisco.

Mr Shapps said: “After listening to frustrated residents and businesses affected by Operations Brock and Stack, we’ve invested in a new solution to boost Kent’s resilience and keep its vital road network moving, even at times of disruption.

“This state-of-the-art technology can be deployed quickly, simply and safely, ensuring motorists across the county can get to where they need to be with minimum fuss, whatever the circumstances.”

The move also means an end to planning for enormous lorry parks to ease congestion on the roads.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Munira Wilson said: “With the transition period quickly unravelling, this announcement stinks of a Conservative government fully expecting disruption.

“Kent deserves better than being turned into a car park because of Boris Johnson’s reckless unwillingness to take a no-deal off the table.

“Not only must a no-deal be taken off the table, but ministers must make clear with the public how much was wasted on Operation Brock despite opposition warnings.”

A spokesman for the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign said the barriers would be "no substitute for the ease with which our border currently operates".

“Without committing to the same standards as Europe, we will naturally face disruption at our borders," the spokesman said.

“The government should work towards breaking down barriers in negotiations with the EU in order to prevent long-term chaos.”

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