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Warning of lorry queues from Dover and Channel going back towards Ashford and Maidstone in EU.Thinking meeting

By Sam Lennon

Dover is heading towards a "perfect car crash" if there are no proper preparations for lorry checks after Brexit.

That's the warning from a Border Force trade unionist echoing fears of long queues of lorries passing through the port if there are no alternative customs arrangements.

Kevin Mills, branch secretary of the Border Force officer's trade union PCS (Public and Commercial Services). spoke out at public meeting.

Speakers and audience members at the EU.Thinking.
Speakers and audience members at the EU.Thinking.

He said: "Any delays will impact this community. Someone had better put in a system that is fit for purpose.

"At the moment we are heading towards the perfect car crash. The clock is ticking.

"As Yvette Cooper said there could be Operation Stack on steroids.

But he added while HM Revenue and Customs said it needed 3,000 to 5,000 staff to deal with the changes directly linked to the UK exit the Home Office has recruited 300.

Yet, he said, it takes six months to train an officer to deal with international trade.

Yvette Cooper, as chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, had last November commented that there could be "Operation Stack on steroids" if the British government did not make the right contingency plans.

Kevin Mills of the PCS union.
Kevin Mills of the PCS union.

Mr Mills spoke last night at a meeting, at St Mary's Parish Centre, Dover, attended by about 50 people.

It was organised by EU.Thinking Deal + Dover, a cross-party group fighting to prevent ill-effects from Brexit..

Dover town and district councillor Peter Wallace commented: "Unless we get real leadership living in Dover and Deal will be a nightmare."

Aston Mannerings.
Aston Mannerings.

Aston Mannerings, of EU. Thinking, said: "I live in Capel-le-Ferne and tailbacks could be daily. Small rural communities would be completely cut off."

Labour Dover parliamentary candidate Charlotte Cornell said: "The people of Dover and Deal need real action, real answers and real solutions to the potential problems new border checks could bring, It is clear from speaking to unions at the Port, local businesses and the Port of Dover that jobs and livelihoods are at stake.

EU.Thinking is calling for both Kent County Council and Dover District Council to hold a public consultation before the UK leaves the European Union next March.

This is so local people can say what they think should be done to protect their communities.

Kevin Mills with EU.Thinking members David Reid, Genevieve Cope and Sarah Gleave.
Kevin Mills with EU.Thinking members David Reid, Genevieve Cope and Sarah Gleave.

The meetings, included videos, one showing a transport expert saying that an extra minute on lorry checks could lead to queues from Dover and Eurotunnel in Folkestone reaching Ashford and affecting local traffic.

There could be 20 miles of jams and a journey of 3.5 hours from Maidstone to Dover when it should take about one hour.

An extra two minutes could mean them going back to Maidstone, queuing of up to 30 miles and a five-hour drive from Maidstone.

The research was presented by Dr Ke Han of Imperial College London's transport research centre.

It was commissioned by the BBC and the video shown at the meeting was an edition of the current affairs programme Inside Out.

At present, while the UK, is in the EU the cross-Channel borders are free-flowing and lorries don't have to undergo customs checks unless they are going to an non-EU country.

So at present it take two minutes or less for each vehicle to pass through border checks.

But that could take longer if there are no alternative arrangements made after Britain leaves the EU on March 29.

Mr Mills had said that there were about 2.5 million lorry movements through Dover a year and only 5% of the vehicles were non-Eu.

Sarah Gleave, co-secretary of EU. Thinking Deal + Dover said after the meeting: "There is a lot of awareness raising that needs to happen about how unprepared we are. The government in London has left us very unprepared and Dover is going to be on the sharp end. There is so much they need to do to protect us from the fallout."

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