Fresh concerns over congestion and delays after Brexit have been made in a report that says ports like Dover could be ‘choked’ if food imports have to be individually checked.
A report by the House of Lords’ EU Energy and Environment sub-committee said if no agreement was made to allow frictionless trade to continue, there could be massive disruption to lorries delivering food.
In a worst case scenario, perishable food could have to be thrown away.
The report cited familiar warnings from the Kent-based Freight Transport Association, which said: “UK ports and borders are not designed to hold these checks or the number of vehicles.
"The lack of adequate infrastructure as well as a possible lack of personnel and capacity in existing inspection facilities could create significant disruptions and paralyse trade... with the impacts of missed deliveries and the spoiling of perishable loads likely to be felt in a matter of days or hours.”
The report also quoted evidence from the EU Parliament Agri committee that underlined these concerns: “A lorry driver arriving at the port of entry will stop briefly only to show passport and boarding information, and on arrival will be on the motorway within minutes.
"This compares to lorry loads of goods entering Dover from outside the EU - around 3% of the total - which are subject to checks that take 45 minutes on average.
"Currently, the Channel ports do not have the parking facilities to cope with delays of this magnitude, leading to fears of massive congestion for traffic on the cross-Channel and Irish Sea routes."
Peers concluded: “Based on the evidence we have heard, we do not believe the UK’s ports and airports will be able to cope with the additional workload that new checks will create and this will add significantly to the import timescales.”
Committee chairman Lord Teverson said: “We are calling on the government to set out what checks they do intend to carry out on food imports, to allow the food industry and customs authorities time to prepare and to reassure consumers that standards will be upheld.”
But Dover MP Charlie Elphicke took issue with the findings, saying: “It’s such a shame that the Lords seem determined to hope for the worst when it comes to Brexit.
"The truth is that there is no need for time-consuming and costly checks to be introduced when we leave the EU.”
“It’s just as much in their interest as ours that trade continues to flow.
"Even better we can cut tariffs to get cheaper food into the shops.
"So it makes sense for Britain and the EU to have mutual recognition of food standards – as we do already.”