Supply chain concerns amid warnings of two-day delays at Dover
Leaked Government documents which reportedly say there could be 48-hour delays at Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit have moved hauliers to warn of the “clear and present danger” to the UK supply chain.
Sky News said it has seen documents which suggest vehicles could face a two-day delay at the port in a no-deal scenario, and the revelation has led to industry insiders saying the Government has “failed to deliver”.
Rod McKenzie, managing director of policy at the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said it comes as absolutely no surprise to him that such a document exists, adding that there is still no sign of a new customs process with just weeks left before the UK is expected to leave the European Union.
He has not seen the Department for Transport documents (DfT), but understands they are more recent than the leaked Operation Yellowhammer files which contained predictions of a three-month “meltdown” at ports in the event of no-deal.
Mr McKenzie told the PA news agency: “The Road Haulage Association have been saying this for quite literally years now that if there is a no-deal Brexit there will be very substantial queues at the border.”
He added: “We have got a very, very serious problem with the UK supply chain if there is a no-deal Brexit on the 31st of October from where we are now.
“This is a clear and present danger to the supply chain on which we all depend, and we are calling on the Government in the clearest terms to make it clear what traders have to do to trade with the continent.
“This they have failed to do so far.”
Sky News said analysis commissioned by the DfT suggests that on the first day of a no-deal Brexit the worst case scenario would be a two-day maximum delay for freight and vehicles at Dover, and an average wait of a day-and-a-half.
Mr McKenzie said any delay at the ports will cause a “very, very substantial traffic jam”, adding: “What we are saying is that we urgently need clarity from this Government, having not had it from the previous government, we urgently need clarity from this Government of what traders have to do to get ready for a no-deal Brexit.”
On August 7, the RHA was among organisations meeting Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in Dover to discuss preparations for Brexit at the border.
Asked if there had been any development since that meeting, Mr McKenzie said: “The new Government talks a good game. So they’re full of saying ‘Oh, you know, we’re going to get clarity out to everyone, everyone will know what needs to be done, we’ll be fine, we’ll be all shipshape and ready for Halloween’.
“But traders haven’t seen that. There’s no sign of that. There’s no sign of a new customs process. There’s no clarity.”
He said there have been “countless” meetings with both the current and previous government, but added: “What we need is action, and we need action now. And there’s this gap between what they say they’re going to do, and what they have so far failed to deliver.”
Kevin Green, marketing and communications director at the Freight Transport Association (FTA) – which speaks for the logistics industry, said the FTA is concerned that there is “still much which the sector needs clarification on in order to ensure that Britain keeps trading after Brexit”.
He added: “The sector is flexible and agile but needs to know what it is preparing for – and today’s report shows that there is still much that is uncertain.
“With so little time left, logistics businesses need the support of Government to ensure that the UK’s interconnected supply chain is protected after the UK leaves the EU.”
The Department for Transport could not be contacted for comment.
Last month, Mr Gove, the Cabinet minister in charge of no-deal planning, visited Holyhead Port in North Wales to meet with organisations working on the trade route to Northern Ireland, Ireland and the rest of the world.
He told the PA news agency that predictions outlined in the Operation Yellowhammer documents were “the absolute worst case”.
He said: “I’m confident that, if we all do the right thing, on October 31 we will be able to ensure that goods can flow in and out of ports like Holyhead without any significant delay.”