80% chance of ‘chaos in Kent’ after Brexit transition period, says haulage boss

There is an 80% chance of “chaos in Kent” when the Brexit transition period ends, a haulage industry leader has warned.

Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA), made the prediction due to concerns over several aspects of the UK’s preparations for the export of goods from January 1.

These include a lack of customs agents, what will happen at new customs sites and the fact that development of a new border IT system has not been completed.

Mr Burnett told the Commons Future Relationship with the European Union Committee: “The devil is in the detail, and some of the fundamental things that need to change and some of the things that need to be invested in are simply not happening fast enough.”

He went on: “In terms of my gut feeling as we stand here today with 81 days to go, with the amount of work that we’ve got to undertake, (the likelihood of) chaos in Kent (is) 80/20.

“Because if businesses try to dispatch because they haven’t got customs agents to do the paperwork, then the chances are they’re going to still want to trade, they’re still going to want to drive volume there.

“If we’re not ready then the likelihood is we will have chaos.”

Mr Burnett accused ministers of having a “self-belief in their own rhetoric at the moment that everything will be OK”.

He added: “My fear at this stage is there will be significant disruption, potentially, at the year-end.”

The RHA boss told MPs that the UK is “a long way off” recruiting enough customs agents to deal with the anticipated increase in declarations required after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

He said: “It can take six to 12 months just to familiarise yourself, but probably three years to really understand how the process works end to end.

“We’ve got 81 working days between now and the end of the year, to be able to recruit the number of agents that are required.

“The intelligence that’s coming back from the industry is that there is a denial, there’s an apathy, there’s a real sense that the Government is not getting the message.”