Latest leak reveals trucks to be turned away from ports in no-deal Brexit

Written by Beckie Smith on 17 September 2019 in News
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All "non-compliant" vehicles without correct paperwork to be turned away at some ports, leak reveals

Michael Gove, Cabinet Office minister in charge of no-deal Brexit preparations, visits Holyhead port. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA

Disruption at ports across the country could be worse than previous estimates published by the government, it has emerged.

As many as two-thirds of trucks exporting goods to the EU via some UK ports could be prevented from crossing the border, according to documents drawn up by the Department for Transport and leaked to the Financial Times.

Documents published this month detailing a reasonable worst-case assessment of the impact of a no-deal Brexit as part of the government’s Operation Yellowhammer contingency planning said there would be a “low risk of significant sustained queues at ports outside of Kent which have high volumes of EU traffic”.


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But the latest leak has revealed there could be queues if thousands of vehicles are turned back at several UK ports because they do not have the right paperwork.

The documents, dated August – the same month as the Yellowhammer dossier – suggest around two-thirds of vehicles arriving at ports in Liverpool, Holyhead and Portsmouth with the hope of crossing the border could be deemed “non-compliant”.

“One hundred per cent of non-compliant vehicles will be turned away, which means the resulting flow rate is 29% at Holyhead, Heysham and Liverpool, and 32% at Portsmouth,” it says.

The documents did not set out how these checks would affect traffic near the ports. However, they did say that at Portsmouth, “local arrangements preventing HGVs that have been turned back from blocking inbound flow” would be needed to keep imports moving smoothly.

And at Dover, the documents estimate, disruption at the port could lead to queues of up to 8,500 vehicles, lasting for up to two days in the worst cases, according to DfT’s assessment.

The Yellowhammer documents estimated the “flow rate” through Dover could drop to 40-60% of normal levels for up to three months.

And arlier this month, the former head of the government’s Border Planning Group, said that some disruption was likely even in a reasonable best-case scenario, with flow rates of around 70-80% through Dover. “But even in those circumstances, which seem just as unlikely as a reasonable worst case, you would still get delays,” Karen Wheeler told parliament’s Exiting the European Union Committee.

Appearing alongside Wheeler, the chief of the Freight Transport Association, James Hookham, said he was unable to “quantify that reliably” how many of the FTA’s members would have the correct paperwork in time to export goods to France by 1 November.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said the leak showed assumptions published in the Yellowhammer documents were “practically meaningless” as they did only provided part of the picture. “Much of the analysis only seems to consider those vehicles which have the correct paperwork and totally overlooks the impact of those HGVs which won’t,” he said.

Responding to the leak, a DfT spokesperson said border disruption would be “limited” if trucks transporting goods to the EU ensure they have the right documents.

“We have implemented a major campaign to ensure hauliers can take action to get ready and are able to operate and that trade can continue to move as freely as possible between the UK and Europe after Brexit,” the spokesperson said.

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Beckie Smith
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Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith

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Peter Byrne/PA
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