Kent closes to trucks on 1 January

London, UK: Trucks will need a permit to enter Kent when the Brexit transition period ends on 1 January.

This new truckers’ passport to Kent is the latest attempt to prevent border chaos after a no-deal Brexit in January.

The announcement comes after a letter from cabinet minister Michael Gove warned that queues 7,000-trucks-long could clog up roads around the port of Dover and Channel Tunnel.

Speaking in the Commons, Gove said the Kent Access Permit system would be enforced by police and using cameras.

Trucks over 7.5 tonnes will need the permits, available online, to show that they have all the paperwork needed to ferry goods to Europe.

Few details are available as to where any checks will be made, where trucks would be stopped, or how trucks carrying domestic freight will be distinguished from those heading for ports or the tunnel.

Duncan Buchanan, policy director for England and Wales, Road Haulage Association, said the Kent permits were “useless” and “pointless” as nobody could enforce them.

Labour’s shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rachel Reeves, said: “It is incredible that ministers are only now admitting to their plans to arrest British truckers for entering Kent without new travel passports.
With just over three months to go, how are businesses meant to prepare amid this Conservative carnival of incompetence?”

Adrian Jones, national officer, Unite trade union, said: “The fact that there will be a de-facto internal border in Kent for lorry drivers, enforced by the police, is another sign that government is planning to avoid responsibility for its own mismanagement.

“It is outrageous that drivers, who are not required to prepare customs documentation, will be liable for fines because their employers got the paperwork wrong or the government’s preparations are full of holes. 

“It is of course incumbent on businesses to ready themselves, but part of that preparation is familiarity with the complex new IT systems and border arrangements that, given the government’s dire record on software development, may not even be fit for purpose by the New Year. 

“It is worrying that Mr Gove could not give a straight answer on when the digital Smart Freight system will be ready for launch, especially given the warnings from logistics operators that a test version isn’t expected until December. Nor did Mr Gove provide any substantial detail on the 29, as yet mostly unbuilt, Brexit lorry parks.

“As a matter of urgency, the government must provide a detailed update on how far along its IT customs systems are, including identifying which private contractors are involved with designing them, publish the specific locations of the lorry parks and properly engage on this issue with unions, industry, local government and communities.

“The end of the transition period is rapidly approaching, and the country cannot afford another repeat of Mr Gove’s evasive answers and blame-shifting. Unless there is a significant change of direction from ministers, Unite’s HGV driver members face being stranded for days, more than likely without clean toilets, showers or decent food, with the knock-on consequences causing gridlock and doing untold damage to the economy.”

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