Border friction and supply chain disruption ‘inevitable’ as barriers go back up

Serious border friction and supply chain disruption are inevitable as trade barriers torn down four decades ago go back up, a veteran diplomat has said.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard made his comments as he branded as “absurd” controversial plans to put up a “ring fence” round Kent in a bid to avoid post-Brexit lorry gridlock at Dover.

Meanwhile, Labour in the Lords likened the need for hauliers to obtain special permits to enter the county as the modern-day equivalent of the Ealing comedy Passport To Pimlico.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove had said the documentation could help avoid queues of up to 7,000 lorries seeking to cross the English Channel after the UK leaves the single market and customs union at the end of the year.

The Kent Access Permit (KAP) system could be enforced by police or the use of cameras monitoring the number plates of vehicles entering the county at points such as the Dartford Crossing bringing freight from Essex.

Lorries queue at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel in Folkestone (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Lorries queue at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel in Folkestone (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Lord Kerr, who served as British ambassador to Washington and Brussels and wrote Article 50 which triggered the formal divorce process with Brussels, said: “I’m not shocked by Kent Access Permits, the Dutch have done the same already.

“Serious border friction and supply chain disruption are inevitable as the barriers torn down 40 years ago are rebuilt.

“Yes it’s absurd to have a ring fence round Kent, but it’s just a particular facet of a general absurdity.”

The independent crossbencher also took issue with Mr Gove who highlighted a government survey that suggested only a quarter of businesses were “fully ready” for the post-Brexit arrangements.

Pressing the Government in the Lords, Lord Kerr said: “What I want to ask the minister about is businesses shock at Mr Gove blaming them for being unready – ready for what?

“The Government has not produced the documents or the IT.”

Responding Cabinet Office Minister Lord True said close working would start with the road haulage industry next month, with the aim of having the system fully up and running by the end of the year.

“The Government is confident that it will be operational in December,” he said.

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