Stockpiling fuels lorry queues as Brexit talks continue

Long queues of lorries on Kent’s roads have become a familiar sight as businesses stockpile goods ahead of December 31.

Thousands more HGVs have been pouring through Dover as the clock ticks down towards the end of the Brexit transition period.

But with just two weeks to go until 2021, the lack of a trade deal between the UK and EU is causing a headache for businesses.

Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister warned there is “significant uncertainty” around how prepared companies are for a no-deal Brexit.

He told the PA news agency: “We are a fortnight away from this momentous transition and so everything is going to come right down to the wire.

“We are going through a really busy period of time right now with the Brexit stockpiling, the diversion of cargo from other ports coming in through our gateway, it is a really important period of time.

“Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been seeing increases of typically between 20 and 25% over this time last year – but we have topped up some bigger numbers, yesterday we approached nearly 40%.”

Lorries queue for the Port of Dover
Lorries queue for the Port of Dover

With the busy Channel port processing about 10,000 lorries every 24 hours, such increases equate to thousands of vehicles.

The M20 in Kent has seen long queues of lorries heading to the border, with tailbacks stretching many miles.

Much of the spike in traffic stems from businesses getting in goods before Christmas, as well as Brexit stockpiling.

This increased volume ahead of December 31 may mean that the first weeks of 2021 may be calmer, Mr Bannister said.

“My hope is it allows traders and the hauliers and everyone to become accustomed with the new processes, so that when the volume begins to return again later in the month and into February, that we’ll have a higher proportion of people that can operate in this post-transition period environment.”

Lorries without the proper paperwork could face being turned away from the border from January 1.

However, Mr Bannister said he is confident that Dover will be able to handle any uncertainty.

“Dover has a proven track record to handle disruption in a good successful way, and we are able to manage the disruption and importantly recover the position very swiftly indeed.

“That’s down to the high capacity, high frequency, high pace of our operation.”