25 JAN 2018

Funding the frontline is not a bridge too far

It was great to hear Boris Johnson call for major investment in the Dover to Calais route last week. Unfortunately there might be a couple of problems with his idea for a 26 mile road bridge across the English Channel. Firstly, it's the world's busiest shipping strait – so a bridge might get in the way of ferries. And secondly, Boris has a problem with wind – gusts of 70mph or more mean the bridge could be shut for 100 days a year.

A far more achievable idea would be to invest in the infrastructure we need at the Dover frontline to ensure we are ready on day one for every eventuality of Brexit. That means investing in the technology and staff we need to handle the customs challenge ahead. And investing in dualling the A2, getting the Lower Thames Crossing built – while securing more lorry parking facilities.

Everyone knows what will happen here if we are not ready. Every summer we see the chaos caused on our roads when there are problems in Calais and the ferries can't run. It's time the Government got serious about Brexit preparations here in Dover.

So it's no surprise that people were angry last week at news that we are handing over another £45 million to the French for security costs in Calais. That's on top of the £125 million we have already paid over the last few years for walls and fencing. People are asking why we pay them a penny.

Yet working together with the French we have made a big difference. For example, things are so much better in Calais for everyone now that the Jungle is gone. Tourists and truckers no longer have to travel on the road to Calais in fear of attack from people traffickers.

Despite the good work we have done so far, a number of migrants are still determined to break into Britain and are returning to Calais. So it's right that we work closely with the French on border security. We must do everything we can to protect our nation against the terror threat of returning ISIS fighters – and to stop people traffickers smuggling migrants into Britain.

Border security is a national priority. Yet so is trade. When it comes to trade with the European Union – nowhere is more important than the route between Dover and Calais. It is the quickest and most efficient crossing between the UK and Europe. Yet to keep it that way we need to start investing now in getting the right customs systems in place when we leave the EU. In Calais they agree that this must be a priority.

So while we must keep our borders secure, we must also ensure we are ready on day one to keep trade flowing – both at Calais and the Dover frontline. There are practical steps we can take right now.

Surely it's not a bridge too far for the Government to invest in Kent.

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Charlie Elphicke

Here you can read about local news matters and what I've been up to. You can make comments too. I'd welcome your feedback, so please do feel free to comment!

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