Brexit masterplan: Gove handed perfect solution to Kent truck crisis – Liverpool the key

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Mr Gove, who is responsible for preparing the UK for leaving the EU, outlined the worst-case scenarios if the UK does not reach a trade deal with the bloc after December 31. He added delays at southern border points including Dover could impact goods such as food, medicine and hospital equipment. But the Peel Ports Group has offered a solution to this impending crisis by announcing three alternative ports in the UK that could be used instead.

Commercial director Stephen Carr suggested the Port of Liverpool, as well as Heysham in Lancashire and Sheerness in North Kent, have the capacity to cope with extra lorries and trucks passing through.

He said: “We have long argued the UK is too reliant on a few key pinch points in the South-East and today’s announcements demonstrates the risks to UK businesses of this strategy.

“We have been preparing rigorously for many months and have invested heavily at our Liverpool, Heysham and Sheerness ports to ensure they have the capacity to accommodate cargo switch routes and modes.

“All three ports have already taken steps to improve resilience ahead of Brexit, with increased throughput capacity for HGV trailers, containers and storage to support smooth operations by RORO ferries and other shipping services.”

Mr Gove set out how lorries could be turned away from France as he detailed the Government’s worst-case assessment in the House of Commons.

He told MPs: “The scenario builds on an estimate that only 50 to 70 percent of large businesses and just 20 to 40 percent of small and medium-sized enterprises would be ready for the strict application of new EU requirements.

“In those circumstances that could mean between only 30 and 60 percent of laden HGVs would arrive at the border with the necessary formalities completed for the goods on board.

“They’d therefore be turned back by the French border authorities, clogging the Dover to Calais crossing.”

However, Mr Gove added the queues of were likely to “subside” after businesses learned from seeing their cargo denied access to Europe.

He said: “But it is clearly far better that everyone is aware now of what is needed to prepare rather than to face additional disruption next year.

Mr Carr added that dotting ports around the country rather than just locating them in the south-east could help good reach their intended destination “more reliably”.

He said: “Potential delays and hold-ups post-Brexit underline the advantage of using ports closest to the origin or destination of goods.

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“Every minute that goods are delayed waiting for border checks incurs greater costs to businesses and stops the flow of vital goods such as food and medicines – an issue which has been brought sharply into focus by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Port of Liverpool is uniquely positioned to offer this proximity to market, which allows goods to reach their end destination more reliably and with less reliance on increasingly scarce truck drivers. This is a need which has never been more critical considering the changes in demand patterns we’ve seen this year, with the added pressure of anticipated queues at Dover and long onward journeys from the South to the North of the country.

“A port’s proximity to markets has other indirect benefits, not only acting as a strategic gateway, but as a facilitator of supply chain activity and as a catalyst for reducing carbon emissions of a journey.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We are prioritising the smooth movement of outbound HGVs over 7.5 tonnes through Kent to prevent unnecessary queues at the border. HGV drivers, or those acting on their behalf, will be able to follow a simple process to get a ‘Kent Access Permit’ using the newly-developed Smart Freight webservice.

“We have been engaging with industry on this for some time and we will set out more detail on this shortly.”

Boris Johnson has reiterated he wants to strike a deal by the time of the European Council summit of the bloc’s leaders on October 15.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We do still believe that it is possible to get a deal but we need to make progress because time is obviously running out.”

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