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Boris Johnson ducks questions on lifting M20 barrier between Maidstone and Ashford on visit to Sevenoaks

Tory leadership contender Boris Johnson has ducked questions on lifting a controversial steel barrier which has left motorists facing a lengthy 50mph limit on the M20 in case of a no-deal Brexit.

On a whistlestop tour of a garden centre in Sevenoaks, Mr Johnson refused to say whether he was willing to intervene to stop the M20 becoming a lorry park if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.

A steel barrier designed to put a contraflow in place on the motorway has remained in place between junctions 8 and 9 from Maidstone to Ashford.

Boris Johnson talks about leaving the EU on his visit to Sevenoaks

This is despite the original date for Brexit passing on March 29, when there were concerns lorries might end up queuing for the Port of Dover because longer customs checks would be brought in if there was no deal.

It has left drivers facing a lengthy 50mph speed limit on the route.

Mr Johnson sidestepped a question about whether he would act to lift the controversial contraflow system.

He said: “It is absolutely right that we get ready for a no-deal Brexit, even though I don't believe that is where we are going to end up.

Boris Johnson meets garden centre customers in Sevenoaks (13227249)
Boris Johnson meets garden centre customers in Sevenoaks (13227249)

"If it does we will get through it and there will be a high degree of preparedness.

“What you can't do is keep saying that you have a deadline of October 31st and then saying 'well, actually, it's not a deadline at all'."

Mr Johnson played down concerns that Kent would not be ready if the nation heads for a cliff-edge no-deal Brexit.

He said: “We will make sure that every step is taken to mitigate impacts of all kinds whether it is transport in Kent or the agricultural sector.

"We will get it done but what I would say to people is this is a great country and we have spent a long time waiting for this - there are more difficult things in the world that countries have to do.

"Ample preparations were made to come out on March 31st - we were very nearly there.

Boris Johnson has visited Sevenoaks as part of his Tory leadership campaign (13219521)
Boris Johnson has visited Sevenoaks as part of his Tory leadership campaign (13219521)

"Those plans sagged back again - that was a mistake.”

He suggested the cost of preparing the country for a no-deal and mitigating the impact on people and business could be met by the £39 billion dividend that would come to the UK as a result of leaving.

“Don't forget that logically there will be available to the government a £39 billion dividend to spend mitigating any impact.”

Away from Brexit, Mr Johnson suggested he would not make it a priorty to lift a ban on new grammar schools.

He said: "I am in favour of every child having the best possible education for every child in this country.

"I do happen to think that having academic competition is a fantastic thing and a great utensil of progress but I prefer to focus on what I want to do, which is spending more per pupil in all of our schools around the country.

"Because what I believe has happened since 2015 is that too many schools have fallen behind - and that is what I will be focusing on."

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

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