Brexit: ports likely to be hit by traffic chaos

Dover, UK: Cross-channel ferry companies warn of gridlock around British ports, as they confirm that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, they will not allow trucks to board ferries bound for France unless they have the right paperwork.

“If a truck doesn’t have the right documents we cannot board him. We cannot take lorries across that cannot enter the country,” said Gert Jakobsen, vice-president, communications, for DFDS, told BBC Newsnight.

Concern has risen because many UK exporters have yet to obtain the relevant documents. Ferry operators are unwilling to board vehicles that French authorities will prohibit from entering.

DFDS and P&O, the two largest short-channel crossing ferry operators, expect many vehicles will turn up without the right documents which is likely to cause tailbacks of trucks on the UK side of the channel.

“For a period of time, for a few weeks and months, we assume the problems will be bigger. There will be more who are not yet accustomed to the paperwork. There will be a learning curve and then we believe it will work much better,” Jakobsen said.

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport dismisses these concerns, reiterating its claim that it has “well developed plans” to manage any traffic disruption in Kent in the event of a no-deal scenario.

Given the volume of traffic in and out of the ports, a delay of minutes per truck will quickly escalate to create massive traffic disruption on port approach roads.

Research by Imperial College London indicates that just two minutes of extra check times at UK borders could result in queues extending up to 30 miles from Dover into Kent.

BBC Newsnight revealed that as of June, two thirds of relevant UK firms have not applied for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, which they will need to trade with the EU after a no-deal Brexit.

Earlier this week, Chancellor Philip Hammond raised concerns that France could effectively push problems to the UK side of the channel. “Many of the levers are held by others — the EU 27 or private business. We can seek to persuade them but we can’t control it. For example, we can make sure that goods flow inwards through the port of Dover without any friction but we can’t control the outward flow into the port of Calais,” the Chancellor told BBC’s Panarama.

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