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Port of Dover chief says any Brexit deal must allow it to trade effectively

By Paul Francis

Port of Dover bosses say businesses are desperate for certainty around the terms of UK’s Brexit and need assurances cross channel trade can continue effectively after 2019.

Tim Waggott, the port’s chief executive, told a Parliamentary reception on Monday he was encouraged the government had recognised the importance of Dover but that businesses were “crying out for certainty” over the terms of any deal.

He said a priority ahead of 2019 was to ensure alternative arrangements were in place for customs checks and that Kent’s road network was improved.

The Port of Dover
The Port of Dover

“Business is crying out for certainty and we need certainty across both sides of the channel so that mainland Europe, Ireland and the UK can continue to trade effectively.”

Brexit would take place against a backdrop of increasing activity at the port with freight trade rising by a third in the last four years.

“About 99% of trucks we handle are EU freight vehicles which are processed around every two minutes. Compare that with about 22 minutes for non-EU lorries.

"On Day 1 after we leave the EU, we will be a third country.

Port of Dover chief executive Tim Waggott
Port of Dover chief executive Tim Waggott

"The EU recognises the importance of the cross channel corridor.

"Dover and Calais are core points on the trans-European network.

"There is no substitutable capacity anywhere in the UK.

“Europe is our nearest trading partner and it is absolutely not going anywhere. Around 44% of our UK exports and 53% of our imports are with and from the EU.

"Any transitional arrangements that are negotiated need to be business-as-usual.”

“Business is crying out for certainty and we need certainty across both sides of the channel so that mainland Europe, Ireland and the UK can continue to trade effectively..." - Tim Waggott

He said Kent needed significantly more investment to improve roads.

“This is starting to move forward with the announcement on the Lower Thames Crossing but more is needed as a national priority to ensure Kent can keep moving in order to support the delivery of national economic success.”

His concerns were echoed by Dover MP Charlie Elphicke, who hosted the reception.

He warned that there could be no deal.

“It is really important that we get Brexit right," he said.

"The way things are going, we have to be prepared for the possibility there won’t be a deal and that is why we need to be ready on day one.”

MP Charlie Elphicke
MP Charlie Elphicke

“We need a resilient roads infrastructure for the channel ports - that means getting on with the M20 lorry park.

"It is stalled but we need to get on with it," he said.

A report by economic analysts in July warned Kent’s ports and roads could be hit by chronic delays and traffic congestion after Brexit because of the need to introduce new customs checks.

Oxera, an economic consultancy, said the cost to the UK could be in the region of £1bn a year - and that could be a conservative forecast.

It warned there could be almost permanent instigation of Operation Stack along the M20 and cites delays in opening new lorry parks as a major factor.

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