Disaster relief charity called in over post-Brexit lorry port queues

RE:ACT boasts expertise after earthquakes and war – but is now needed by Kent County Council

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 22 May 2022 17:01
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A crisis relief charity offering emergency help after earthquakes, hurricanes and floods is being drafted in to ease the suffering of lorry drivers stuck in post-Brexit queues.

RE:ACT Disaster Response also works in war-torn Afghanistan and Ukraine – but has now signed a deal with Kent County Council as it struggles with gridlock at the Port of Dover.

Drivers spend many hours in their cabs because of the mountain of red tape created by Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, which brought frictionless trade with the EU to the end.

The truckers have been left without access to toilets, food or drink on the M20 and M2 – previously sparking protests about some relieving themselves by the roadside.

Council chiefs fear the problems are about to get worse, as tourists unable to travel because of the Covid pandemic are free to head off on summer holidays again.

Up to 50 days of gridlock are now expected every year – prompting the signing of the £158,000 six-month contract with RE:ACT, which was set up by a former army commander.

A statement announcing the deal reads: “Kent County Council has long accepted that it has a duty to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need.”

It adds: “A direct award was used due to reasons of extreme urgency,” explaining why normal contract rules have been bypassed.

RE:ACT has come to the aid of flood victims in South Africa, people affected by hurricanes in Mozambique and the Bahamas and refugees from Ukraine.

A spokesperson for the charity said it would provide help to drivers “in the rare times traffic is held so long the occupants need additional food and water”.

But the Road Haulage Association has raised fears it will be “dangerous’ to approach truckers while traffic moves very slowly, as it does most of the time.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow international trade secretary, accused ministers of “putting their heads in the sand” as the situation worsened.

“That a disaster relief charity has been called in shows the scale of the crisis this Conservative government created. It is high time that ministers started focussing on pragmatic solutions”, he said.

Naomi Smith, chief executive of internationalist campaign group Best for Britain said: “Far from sunlit uplands, red tape from the prime minister’s Brexit deal has left parts of Kent beginning to look like a disaster zone.”

A Kent County Council spokesperson said: “As a responsible local authority, we have long had plans in place for delivering aid to drivers caught in significant disruption, where it is safe and practical to do so.

“To do this, we routinely work with organisations experienced at working in emergency situations and on live motorways.”

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