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Truck queues could be 7,000 long when Brexit transition ends, ministers warn

The cabinet office minister, Michael Gove, who is responsible for no-deal planning, has written to logistics groups detailing the government's 'reasonable worst-case scenario' planning, which warns of possible two-day delays for cargo travelling to France in January.

Article originally published by The Guardian. Hargreaves Lansdown is not responsible for its content or accuracy and may not share the author's views. News and research are not personal recommendations to deal. All investments can fall in value so you could get back less than you invest.

UK ministers have warned of 7,000-truck-long queues in Kent after the Brexit transition period ends as a worst-case scenario if hauliers fail to prepare for changes to customs rules.

The cabinet office minister, Michael Gove, who is responsible for no-deal planning, has written to logistics groups detailing the government’s “reasonable worst-case scenario” planning, which warns of possible two-day delays for cargo travelling to France in January.

The warnings were contained in confidential government documents revealed by the Guardian earlier this month.

Gove is due to outline the scenario work, which the cabinet office stressed was not a forecast, in the Commons on Wednesday.

It comes as the European Union’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, prepares to travel to London for further informal talks with his counterpart, Lord Frost, as efforts continue to strike a post-Brexit trade deal.

But in the document sent to logistics associations, which has been seen by the PA Media news agency, Gove warned changes were coming with or without a deal.

The transition period, which kept the UK aligned to the EU’s single market and customs union rules to allow trade to flow smoothly after Brexit, expires at the end of the year unless both sides agree to an extension – something Boris Johnson has ruled out.

The cabinet office document states that, in its reasonable worst-case scenario, 30-50% of trucks crossing the Channel will not be ready for the new regulations coming into force on 1 January, while a “lack of capacity to hold unready trucks at French ports” could reduce the flow of traffic across the strait to 60-80% of normal levels.

“This could lead to maximum queues of 7,000 port-bound trucks in Kent and associated maximum delays of up to two days,” the documents said.

Such delays could be in place for at least three months, hauliers have been warned, as alternative routes are sought and supply chains get to grips with the new systems and requirements.

In his letter, Gove said: “Irrespective of the outcome of negotiations between the UK and EU, traders will face new customs controls and processes. Simply put, if traders, both in the UK and EU, have not completed the right paperwork, their goods will be stopped when entering the EU and disruption will occur.

“It is essential that traders act now and get ready for new formalities.”

But sector chiefs have accused the government of failing to do enough in recent weeks over the threat of post-Brexit border delays.

Logistics UK, formerly the Freight Transport Association, was seething last week after being told the government’s Smart Freight system – designed to reduce the risk of cargo delays once Britain is outside EU rules – would still be in testing mode in January when British exports face new border regulations.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA), meanwhile, said its meeting on Thursday with Gove had fallen “far short of our expectations”.

Responding to the worst-case scenario document, the RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett, said: “We’ve been consistently warning the government there will be delays at ports but they’re just not engaging with industry on coming up with solutions.

“Traders need 50,000 more customs intermediaries to handle the mountain of new paperwork after transition but government support to recruit and train those extra people is woefully inadequate.

“The answers to the questions that we raised in our letter to Mr Gove and subsequent roundtable meeting last Thursday still remain unanswered – and our concern continues to grow.”


This article was written by Pa Media from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

Article originally published by The Guardian. Hargreaves Lansdown is not responsible for its content or accuracy and may not share the author's views. News and research are not personal recommendations to deal. All investments can fall in value so you could get back less than you invest.

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