Published: 19:17, 23 September 2020
| Updated: 21:23, 23 September 2020
Controversial plans which will see an "internal border" erected in Kent to filter access for goods vehicles to and from Europe, have sparked debate.
It comes after the government disclosed to the House of Commons special 'Kent Access Permits' permits will be needed to get into the county.
Watch KMTV's report on the ministers warn of 7,000 long queues on Kent's roads
The scheme is being devised to help avoid queues of up to 7,000 trucks seeking to cross the English Channel after the UK leaves the single market and customs union at the end of the year.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove, the minister responsible for preparing the UK for leaving the EU’s economic structures, set out the measure as he outlined a “reasonable worst-case scenarios” that could emerge from January 1.
He told MPs: "The scenario builds on an estimate that only 50% to 70% of large businesses and just 20% to 40% of small and medium-size enterprises would be ready for the strict application of new EU requirements.
“In those circumstances that could mean between only 30% and 60% of laden HGVs would arrive at the border with the necessary formalities completed for the goods on board.
“They’d therefore be turned back by the French border authorities, clogging the Dover to Calais crossing.”
He added the queues of “up to 7,000 HGVs in Kent” were likely to “subside” after businesses saw their cargo denied entry to the continent.
“But it is clearly far better that everyone is aware now of what is needed to prepare rather than to face additional disruption next year,” the minister said.
It comes after a government survey suggested only a quarter of businesses are “fully ready” for the post-Brexit arrangements, according to Mr Gove.
Opposition frontbenchers argued more could have been done to prepare for the start of the new customs arrangements.
Shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves said: “It is incredible that ministers are only now admitting to their plans to arrest British truckers for entering Kent without new travel passports.
“With just over three months to go, how are businesses meant to prepare amid this Conservative carnival of incompetence?”
It is expected the system will be enforced by police or via the use of cameras scanning the number plates of vehicles entering the county at points such as the Dartford Crossing, bringing freight from Essex.
Kent Police pledged to keep the county moving in the event of traffic disruption and play its role when called upon.
Assistant chief constable Claire Nix said: “Kent Police participated in the consultation related to the Kent Access Permit and is continuing to engage with the Government and other partners within the Kent Resilience Forum on how it will be enforced.
“This forms part of our ongoing work to keep Kent moving in the event of traffic disruption following the end of the EU transition period.”
Meanwhile, social media erupted with news of a partition through Kent, with #Kexit trending on the top five on Twitter and some taking to the platform to joke the new special permit should be called a "Kermit".
There was also speculation as to who might lead a fictional Kent independent state with bookmaker Ladbrokes weighing into the debate.
It made Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage the favourite at 2/1 with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Libertines frontman Pete Doherty as rank outsiders at 12/1 and 16/1 respectively.
But the poll took Tracey Crouch, Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford by surprise, who at 3/1 second favourite posted on Twitter: "I switch off twitter for an hour and return to news about permits to enter Kent and me 3/1 on to be President of Kent.
"Did we declare independence in my absence?"
Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield, the county's only Labour representative, also jokingly reacted to a post suggesting she would be "missing a trick" if she didn't run.
Mr Gove’s announcement came as the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier was in London for informal trade talks.
But Downing Street warned time was running out to reach a post-Brexit trade deal which could be in place by the end of the year.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We do still believe that it is possible to get a deal but we need to make progress because time is obviously running out.”
Boris Johnson has said he wants a deal done by the time of the European Council summit of the bloc’s leaders on October 15.
The chairman of the Kent Police Federation also spoke out on the issue.
Neil Mennie said: “Increasingly of late politicians are giving guarantees to the public about what the Police will enforce as COVID rules and regulations are wheeled out at breakneck speed.
“We have heard about ‘extra’ officers on the streets enforcing the COVID laws. The phrase extra officers very rarely means what it suggests as colleagues will know.
“The tone seems to have shifted to more of an expectation around enforcement and more emphasis on the last E of the Engage, Explain, Encourage, Enforce strategy we have been using very wisely to date.
“Now here in Kent we hear about a potential extra demand on checking the validity of lorry paperwork to avoid chaos during our exit from the EU.
“The usual policing business of which there is a considerable amount can’t be stored in a convenient cupboard while both COVID and Brexit loom large.
“The process of prioritising demand and utilising precious and hard working officers is quite simply a matter for the police not politicians.
“Discretion is key to what our colleagues do and quite rightly so they will enforce when it’s judged by them to be appropriate.”