Ministers have warned of huge traffic jams of 7,000 trucks in Kent following the end of the Brexit transition period if shippers fail to prepare for changes in customs regulations.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, who is responsible for no-deal planning, has written to logistics groups with the government’s “reasonable worst-case scenario” planning warning of possible two-day delays for freight travel to France in January.
Mr Gove is due in the House of Commons on Wednesday to outline the options that the Cabinet Office stressed are not a forecast.
European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier prepares to travel to London for further informal talks with his counterpart Lord Frost as efforts continue towards a post-Brexit trade deal.
However, in the document sent to the logistics associations and viewed by the PA News Agency, Mr Gove warned of changes – with or without an agreement.
The transition period, during which the UK was brought into line with EU rules for the internal market and the customs union, in order to enable smooth trade after Brexit, expires at the end of the year, unless both sides agree to an extension. But that was ruled out by Boris Johnson.
The cabinet document warns that in its reasonable worst-case scenario, between 30 and 50 percent of trucks crossing the canal will not be ready for the new regulations, which will come into effect on January 1, 2021.
A “lack of capacity to hold existing trucks in French ports” could reduce the flow of traffic across the strait to 60 to 80 percent of normal levels.
“This could result in maximum queues of 7,000 truck-bound trucks in Kent and associated maximum delays of up to two days,” the documents say.
Delays could be at least three months, carriers were warned as alternative routes are sought and supply chains grapple with new systems and requirements.
In his letter, Mr Gove said: “Regardless of the outcome of the UK-EU negotiations, traders will face new customs controls and processes.
“Simply put, if traders in both the UK and the EU have not completed the correct forms, their goods will be stopped on entry into the EU and disruptions will ensue.
“It is important that traders act now and prepare for new formalities.”
However, transport chiefs have accused the government of not doing enough about the risk of delays at the border after Brexit.
Logistics UK, formerly the Freight Transport Association, was simmering last week after it was revealed that the government’s Smart Freight system – designed to reduce the risk of freight delays once the UK is outside of EU regulations – was still in trial mode in January if UK exports would face new border regulations.
Richard Burnett, executive director of the Road Haulage Association (RHA) said: “We have warned the government time and time again that there will be delays in the ports, but they just don’t work with the industry to find solutions.”
“Merchants will need 50,000 more customs brokers to deal with the mountain of new papers after the transition, but government support for the recruitment and training of these additional people is absolutely inadequate.
“The answers to the questions still remain unanswered – and our concern continues to grow.”
A UK government spokesman said: “With only 100 days left until the end of the transition period, it is important that companies prepare now for new rules that will come into effect at the end of the year so they can get started on January 1st, 2021 and take advantage of it New opportunities.
“As a responsible government, we continue to fully prepare for a variety of scenarios, including the reasonable worst case. This is not a prediction or prediction of what will happen, but rather a stretch scenario. “
The leaked letter comes as a think tank said the failure to reach an agreement with the EU in post-Brexit trade talks could hit the UK economy three times harder than the coronavirus in the long run.
Queues at the border, shortages of fresh food and medicines as well as more “trouble” on the continent are also possible in a changing Europe group, according to Great Britain.
She warned that failing to deal with Brussels would have significant long-term implications.
Trade deals between the two sides continue, but the Prime Minister has set a deadline of October 15 for an agreement to be reached. Otherwise, he has announced that he will simply walk away from the negotiating table.