19 OCT 2017

Deal or no deal - we need investment at the front line

It's vital we are ready on day one for Brexit, deal or no deal. We can't wait until the last moment to make sure we have resilient roads and strong borders.

That's why we must be prepared for every eventuality – particularly at the Dover frontline. Clearly we all hope for a deal, yet we must also be fully prepared. The Prime Minister rightly said this week, the Government is committed to spending what is needed to make sure we are ready.

What's more, investment at the border is needed anyway, so it will be a "no regrets" investment decision that is in the national interest. For why wouldn't we want to have world class customs systems and cutting edge digital border controls at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel? Why wouldn't we want to upgrade the A2 and M20? It wouldn't just mean we are in a great position, deal or no deal – it would also mean faster, more efficient borders and roads to help boost our economy.

Everyone knows that leaving the EU is the biggest challenge our nation has faced since the Second World War. This is why I got hauliers, ports and transport experts together to set out a blueprint for the way forward. We have set out the case to plan for efficient ports. Infrastructure for customs checks and technological improvements. We need a trusted trader system for truckers and close working will be required from our partner ports like Calais, Dunkirk and Zeebrugge.

The Government has drawn heavily on this work in setting out its own plans. This includes goods being presented to customs authorities inland – away from Dover's docks where this would cause delays. This yet again underlines why the roads to the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel must be resilient, with lorry parks where checks could take place. The Department for Transport needs to act now – to make sure that the long-suffering residents of Kent don't have to put up with Operation Stack happening in the future.

It's also important we are ready for the end of uncontrolled EU immigration. That means we need to be able extend our full border control systems from the current 12.5 million to a further 25.5 million visitors to the United Kingdom.

Investment in tried and tested modern digital border systems would enable much faster checks to be made and allow most of the processing to be automated. Using systems to make all necessary checks long before people arrive at the Port of Dover would help minimise travel delays for legitimate travellers.

If we are ambitious we can be a world leader in terms of border technology and security.

Yet we can't keep waiting for the EU to get its act together. It's time to get ready on day one, so we can forge ahead on day two.

1 comment

This country has shown itself highly resilient in just about all the crises faced in past generations, and I agree that leaving the EU is the most difficult and important one to be faced by about 99% of us living today; for that reason I in my naivety assumed, 16 months after the referendum produced a leave outcome, the Government would by now have prepared and begun the implementation of a plan to ensure that movement of goods, services and people between this Country and Europe through all the ports so engaged, would be well advanced. What I've learned reading this article tells a different story. It tells me that by the end of March 2019 the major road network in Kent, but particularly surrounding Dover, will probably be constant gridlock; not a happy situation for those of us living in the area. Whatever the politics of it, this Government has to be convinced soonest, to commit money, appropriate technology and expertise; the skills we have in abundance when circumstances demand it, to ensure our borders are ready when Brexit takes place. The efforts of all involved in Mr Elphicke's endeavour are to be applauded.
- Keith Wells

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Charlie Elphicke

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