We must be ready on day one for every eventuality of Brexit – particularly at the Dover frontline. Planning for no deal is not simply a negotiation point in our talks with the European Union. Increasingly it is the responsible thing to do.
This was the case I made in the House of Commons last week – that it is in the national interest to be ready on day one. There are three key reasons.
First, insurance. You buy house insurance before you are burgled. In the same way we should insure against the risks of error in the current Brussels brinkmanship by making sure we are ready on day one.
Second, to get the best deal. Any experienced negotiator will tell you that if you want a deal, prepare first for no deal. If you can walk away you get a better price and better terms.
Third, this is no regrets spending. Our customs computers are creaking, the border systems are ageing and roads in Kent are far from resilient. In other words, this is investment we need at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel anyway.
Lack of investment already costs the economy billions of pounds when there are problems at the Channel Ports. In 2015, tailbacks caused by strikes in Calais caused queues of 4,600 lorries over 30 miles. In 2016, a lack of French border police at Dover caused huge tailbacks with miles of traffic and 250,000 people caught up in the delay. Gridlock at Dover will mean gridlock for the British economy.
It would be wrong to wait until the last moment to start investing. It is in the national interest that we invest now. At least £1 Billion should be set aside in the November Budget to invest in upgrading our systems and infrastructure so that we will be ready on day one to forge ahead on day two.
Now, some will say that however ready we are they won't be ready across the English Channel. Yet ports like Calais and Dunkirk would be required to upgrade their systems in line with a new global trade agreement that came into force in February. So if we start preparing now, there is no need for queues of lorries on either side of the Channel.
Others will say we cannot possibly be ready in time. That our system of administration and government organisation simply cannot cope. These are not people who believe in Britain. Nor are they people who have studied our history. For when there is a need, there is no obstacle we cannot overcome – no challenge we cannot meet. We can do this – and we must do this to deliver the greatest opportunities offered to our future generations by seeking a global future.
Yet we must prepare now. As the closest point to Europe, the most important preparations of all will be at the Dover frontline.
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