The Department for Transport has announced that it will trigger Operation Brock, its traffic management system designed to deal with travel disruption caused by a no-deal Brexit in Kent, three days before the UK is set to leave the EU.
The department said yesterday that Operation Brock, which will allow lorries to be held on the M20 in the event of tailbacks at ports, would be put in place on 28 October to ensure the roads around the Channel ports are ready for Brexit on 31 October.
Under the scheme, holding areas are set up for HGV traffic bound for the EU. Keeping lorries in these four areas – the A20 Dover TAP, Brock contraflow between M20 junctions 8 and 9, Manston Airfield, and M26 – is intended to keep the M20 open in both directions in the event of disruption.
Operation Brock will require hauliers heading to Europe via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel to follow designated routes and follow specified diversions, instructions and speed restrictions. Traffic officers in Kent will also have new and enhanced powers to ensure hauliers comply with the rules.
The plan will be triggered this month despite the government being legally required to request a Brexit extension if parliament has not voted either for an EU withdrawal deal, or to leave without an agreement, by 19 October. The government has said it will comply with the law but has also said it still plans to leave the EU at the end of October.
Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris said he wanted residents in Kent and hauliers travelling from the EU “to be reassured that there are robust plans in place to deal with any disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit”.
He added: “We now need everyone to do their bit – whether you are travelling to see family, heading to work or transporting vital goods around the country, please check before you travel to ensure you know what to expect and have the right documents when heading to the border.”
Final works in the coming weeks will ensure that the holding areas are ready when Operation Brock goes live.
The announcement came as HM Revenue and Customs said it had registered 95,000 businesses for its simplified import procedures, which give most traders up to six months to pay import duties and submit customs declarations, as part of its no-deal planning.
The scheme, known as transitional simplified procedures, will make importing goods after Brexit on 31 October simpler for businesses completing customs processes for the first time. Up to now, businesses have had to apply to access the provisions.
The businesses registered are UK-based traders that HMRC has a record of having imported goods from the EU in 2018. HMRC has sent letters to these traders with further details of their TSP registration, and setting out the additional steps they need to take to be ready for 31 October.
Importers do not have to use simplified procedures: they can choose to use the full import processes instead. However, HMRC has advised traders dealing with customs for the first time to follow the simpler route, which would allow them to delay making customs declarations until 6 May 2020.
HMRC’s interim chief executive Jim Harra said the enrolling drive showed that “we are doing everything we can to help businesses get ready for Brexit on 31 October”.
He said: “This move will support the trade of thousands of businesses and is part of our longstanding policy of making sure we continue to keep trade flowing.”