Brexit: Fears of dead chicks in lorries and 10 months of ports chaos detailed in new government document

Emergency traffic measures to last until ‘end of October 2021’ – with a giant lorry park to hold 2,000 goods vehicles

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 04 August 2020 17:08 BST
What happens next in the post-Brexit negotiations?

Chicks exported to the EU will die unless they can be rushed through the chaos expected at UK ports next year, the government has admitted.

A new document warns that Brexit will bring up to 10 months of disruption, with emergency traffic control measures in Kent to last until “the end of October 2021”.

The report admits a 27-acre “clearance centre” being built near Ashford – which Michael Gove denied would become a giant lorry park – will, in fact, hold around 2,000 trucks.

And it raises fears for live products, which lose up to 60 per cent of their value if they fail to reach EU destinations “within one to two days” – in particular day-old chicks.

“They cannot be fed in their vehicle, and delays risk dehydration and mortality,” the document, published by transport secretary Grant Shapps, states.

The threat to live animals was described as “horrifying” by Layla Moran, a Liberal Democrat leadership candidate, while a freight organisation said the proposals amounted to “an internal UK border”.

It comes after the government advised medicine suppliers to begin stockpiling again for a no-deal Brexit at the end of the transition period, by building up six weeks’ worth of drugs.

However, new port checks will be necessary even if the UK avoids crashing out without a deal, because even an agreement will not allow the free-flow of goods that takes place now.

When the 2016 referendum was held, Brexit campaigners repeatedly denied such checks would be required – but now describe them as inevitable, under the prime minister’s clean-break plans.

The emergency traffic measures are needed because the controls brought in for port approach roads last year – called Operation Brock – lapsed at the end of 2019.

The document, to cope with leaving the EU single market and customs union on 1 January, states that:

* The Ashford site “will provide approximately 2,000 HCV [heavy commercial vehicles] holding spaces”.

* The UK is no better prepared than last year – it being “prudent to assume that overall border readiness could be at levels similar to those anticipated for October 2019”.

* Lorries without the proper paperwork to enter France risk “having their goods seized or destroyed”.

* Any hauliers using designated port approach roads will require a digital Kent access permit (KAP), valid for 24 hours to cover a single trip.

* £300 fines will be issued for failing to have a valid KAP and for “evading the Brock queues”.

The document states that “significant levels of disruption to outbound traffic are unlikely to extend much beyond the middle of 2021”.

“We propose extending the sunset clause by a further 10 months to the end of October 2021 to cover this period and leave the measures in force for a short additional period in the event that disruption continues for longer than anticipated,” it reads.

Chris Yarsley, policy manager at Logistics UK, formerly the Freight Transport Association, said it was “dismayed” by the threat of heavy fines for its members.

“It is disappointing to see that the government is expecting significant friction at the border with the EU, after the logistics industry had been given previous reassurances that friction would be minimised,” he said.

“We need government’s assistance to ensure logistics vehicles can continue to move smoothly into and out of the EU. The current proposals leave too many questions unanswered and very little time available in which to identify and implement solutions to keep the country trading.”

Ms Moran said: “We cannot afford this kind of chaos at our ports at a time we could be in the middle of fighting a second wave of coronavirus.”

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