Government faces backlash over customs clearance sites in Kent in event of no-deal Brexit

The government is facing a backlash over plans to put in place five customs clearance sites in Kent with MPs and council chiefs saying it could add to disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Brexit, insists its proposals are necessary but has been urged to consider alternatives outside the county.

Dover Eastern Docks
Dover Eastern Docks

The sites would allow European lorry drivers to pick up permits for onwards travel but it is feared they could cause 'mayhem'.

Four of these sites have been identified: Manston airport; the STOP24 lorry site at Folkestone; the Ashford International Truckstop and one at Ebbsfleet station. A fifth has not been identified.

Answering a question from Damian Green the Ashford MP, Mr Gove told the Commons: “There are two aspects to this; lorries coming in to the UK and going out.

"When it comes to lorries coming in to this country, thanks to simplified procedures it will be the case that any duty that needs to be paid will be deferred.

"We will be prioritising flow over revenue, which means there will be no new checks in the first few months after Brexit.”

Mr Green said: “I am urging Highways England to consider bringing forward Junction 10a; I understand that it cannot be opened early but if there was a way of using some part of it, that would ease congestion and get over the problem of HGVs spilling into other parts of the town.”

Cllr Paul Carter, the leader of Kent County Council, said the government plans would cause mayhem and called for alternatives to be considered.

“It would make life much easier if all the haulage coming into Kent had the right paperwork before they crossed the Dartford bridge and came into Kent. A system where lorry drivers have to run around trying to find the right paperwork is not sensible; it is putting a high-risk strategy on top of another high-risk strategy.”

But Christopher Snelling of the Freight Transport Association said: “We have to be prepared for all kinds of eventualities; if we are going to have a no-deal Brexit. Having a number of additional customs stations to deal with a vastly increased number of customs clearances is the right thing to do.”

Kent County Council leader brands plans for truck checkpoints away from Dover 'mayhem'

In a statement, HMRC said: “The government has plans and contingencies in place for the UK border to continue to operate with the minimum of disruption. This includes introducing simpler UK customs procedures and opening a small number of additional locations, to handle customs administration removing pressure on existing border locations.”

“Special Development Orders (SDOs) have been granted to provide planning permission at three proposed sites. We are still in commercial negotiation with the landowners on these sites and will comment on them further once negotiations are complete.”

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