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All you need to known about no-deal Brexit operations planned for Kent including Brock, Stack and Yellowhammer

From Stack to Brock, Perch to Fennel, Kingfisher to Bunting, emergency planners and the government have drawn up a range of Brexit contingency plans to respond to the challenges that could confront Kent.

And with the Brexit deadline looming, you may be hearing more about them. Here’s our need-to-know guide and assessment of how worried we should be if they are implemented.

Operation Brock in place on M20 Picture: Andy Jones
Operation Brock in place on M20 Picture: Andy Jones

Operation Brock

Now the most important scheme to deal with the potential delays and disruption caused by Brexit, its key objective is keeping traffic moving and ensuring the M20 does not become a huge lorry park in the event of disruption at the Channel ports.

It has various phases, depending on the severity of any congestion and delays.

The crucial phase is the contra-flow that will be put in place between Ashford and Maidstone on the M20 London-bound, designed to keep traffic moving in both directions in the event of disruption caused by Brexit delays. Its other phases involve directing lorries to Manston airfield site should capacity be used up on the M20 coast-bound; and if that is full, the final phase involves parking HGVs along the M26. Questions have been raised about whether it will work, especially over the use of the Manston airfield.

As to why it is named ‘Brock’? The rumour is that it stands for “Brexit operations in the county of Kent”. How worried should we be? If all four phases are implemented, it will mean we are in a full-on crisis. On the other hand, if it is contained to the M20 and the contraflow, it could minimise the scale of disruption.

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Operation Fennel

This is the codename given to the over-arching strategy to deal with “exceptionally high volumes of traffic that may be significantly disrupted whilst trying to leave the county via the Port of Dover and/or the Channel Tunnel.”

According to the Kent Resilience Partnership, it sets out contingency plans to deal with other disruptive factors such as increased border checks, severe weather and industrial action in France.

A little confusingly, these mitigating measures include those set out in ‘Operation Brock’ but the wider Fennel plans are described in a report on the county’s Brexit preparationsas “flexible and can be activated depending on the volume and impact on flows around the county, particularly traffic leaving the country via the Kent-based ports.”

How worried should we be? Quite worried - if this is triggered, it would probably signal that the situation is pretty dismal.

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Operation Perch

According to the Kent Resilience Partnership, this is “a dynamic traffic management plan in response to non-freight traffic queues generated by significant disruption at the ports.” Translated? This means what the authorities will do to help ordinary motorists - other than HGVs caught up in traffic queues and if necessary, provide emergency aid. It too is part of Operation Fennel.

Why is it called ‘Perch?’ We are not sure - but the codename was used for a British offensive of the Second World War during the early stages of the Battle of Normandy.

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Operation Yellowhammer

This is the government’s over-arching strategy for dealing with the wider Brexit fallout.

It not only sets out the implications on the road network if Channel ports are shut but addresses other key national challenges, such as the potential shortage of medicines, the impact on food supplies, staff shortages and the creation of a black economy and civil unrest.

How worried should we be? The likelihood of all the worst-case scenarios it flags up happening at once is remote but even if a few were to occur - or one led to a domino effect - the ramifications could be pretty challenging. If fuel shortages occur, coupled with civil unrest, the implications could be far-reaching.

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Operation Stack

This has been the default contingency plan to address congestion and delays principally on the M20 and pre-dates Brexit by two decades. Its origins lie in an attempt to provide a solution to delays at Kent’s cross channel ports caused by bad weather or striking French workers. Ironically, it was first deployed in February 1988, because of a strike called by the National Union of Seamen in Folkestone Docks.

Involving the closure of the M20 - with different phases - it allows HGVs to be “stacked” on the motorway with other traffic diverted on to the A20.

A low point came in 2015, when industrial disputes involving French ferry companies led to more than 30 days of gridlock. The ensuing chaos did produce one positive result - it finally forced the government to come up with an alternative - an ambitious proposal for a huge lorry park off the M20 near Folkestone at a cost of £250m. That plan is in limbo.

While it has been superseded by Operation Brock it remains in Kent's contingency plans.

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And two more no one seems to know too much about...

Operation Kingfisher

An initiative aimed at supporting businesses in the transition phase leading up to and in the immediate aftermath of Brexit.

It is unclear what is happening to this initiative, which the government said could provide financial assistance to firms to withstand cash-flow problems.

Some have criticised reports that it would be geared to bigger companies rather than smaller businesses who may be more vulnerable to an abrupt no-deal Brexit.

Operation Snow Bunting

Sets out how the police will co-ordinate the response to Brexit and is reported to include the option of drafting in more officers from other forces in to Kent should conditions demand it.

While Kent Police - who have received several million pounds from the government to cover the additional costs of Brexit - would be involved, it is a national initiative but details are limited and a number of Freedom of Information requests on what it would entail have been refused on grounds of national security. Some have questioned the wisdom of a strategy that indirectly could expose other areas to increased criminality.

Head to our politics page for expert analysis and all the latest news from your politicians and councils.

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

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