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Port of Dover could face Christmas gridlock if French impose lengthier customs checks


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A French go-slow on customs checks could cause mayhem at the Port of Dover and surrounding roads in the run-up to Christmas, it has been claimed.

Reports suggest the French government could order lengthier checks on lorries heading for the UK from Calais.

A wall of lorries in Townwall Street, Dover, the last time there was border disruption
A wall of lorries in Townwall Street, Dover, the last time there was border disruption

It is part of a continuing row over the number of fishing licences granted to fishermen to trawl in UK waters.

The wrangling is linked to the unhappiness among the French fishing fleet at the refusal of the UK to approve 15 permits for small French fishing vessels to operate in British waters - after 47 applications were made.

Talks are set to continue to resolve the argument this week amid reports the French government has threatened to order a go-slow from Friday.

France says its fleet should keep the same level of access as it had prior to Brexit, and has accused Britain of breaching the Brexit trade deal.

However, the threat of disruption has been downplayed by a Conservative councillor in Dover.

Cllr Martin Bates
Cllr Martin Bates

Cllr Martin Bates, the cabinet member for transport on Dover Council, said: “We know from the past that the French often say things and it doesn't happen.

"I am pretty certain that things are going on behind the scenes and that it will be resolved.

"At the moment, there seems to be negotiations going on between two governments.”

Fishing industry representatives in France have since threatened to block the port of Calais and stop exports to the UK in the run-up to Christmas if they are not granted more permits to fish off Britain’s coast.

Ironically, fishermen in Ramsgate said they were losing out under the terms of a post-Brexit deal.

There are fears Dover could be gridlocked
There are fears Dover could be gridlocked

John Nichols, who chairs the Thanet Fisherman’s Association, warned in January: "We were looking forward to a bright future for the fishing industry, an opportunity to rebuild, and then it was taken from us the other day.

"We had an opportunity to become a world leader in fishing again like we were 50-60 years ago.

"We have the best fishing grounds in the world, we just haven't taken back control of those grounds and we've allowed Europe to virtually continue exactly the same as it was two weeks ago."

How is Brexit affecting Kent? For all the latest news, views and analysis visit our dedicated page here.

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