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Brexit: Michael Gove letter warns of ‘queues of 7,000’ trucks after transition period ends | Politics News

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Massive queues of up to 7,000 lorries could be seen outside Dover if hauliers fail to prepare for changes to customs rules after the Brexit transition period ends, according to the government.

The transition period, which kept the UK aligned to the EU’s single market and customs union rules to allow trade to flow smoothly after Brexit, expires at the end of the year unless both sides agree to an extension – something Boris Johnson has ruled out.

In a letter sent to logistics groups, The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove outlines the government’s “reasonable worst-case scenario” planning, including a warning that between 30-50% of trucks crossing the Channel will not be ready for the new regulations coming into force on 1 January 2021, while a “lack of capacity to hold unready trucks at French ports” could reduce the flow of traffic across the strait to 60-80% of normal levels.

“This could lead to maximum queues of 7,000 port bound trucks in Kent and associated maximum delays of up to two days,” the document says and that the disruption could last up to three months as alternative routes are sought and supply chains get to grips with the new systems and requirements.

And Mr Gove also warns that changes were coming with or without a deal.

The leak of the document comes as the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier prepares to travel to London for further informal talks with his counterpart Lord Frost as efforts continue to strike a post-Brexit trade deal.

Mr Johnson has set a deadline of 15 October for an agreement to be reached, otherwise he says he will simply walk away from the negotiating table.

In his letter, Mr Gove says: “Irrespective of the outcome of negotiations between the UK and EU, traders will face new customs controls and processes.

“Simply put, if traders, both in the UK and EU, have not completed the right paperwork, their goods will be stopped when entering the EU and disruption will occur.

“It is essential that traders act now and get ready for new formalities.”

For their part, freight and transport leaders have accused the government of failing to do enough about the threat of post-Brexit border delays.

Responding to the worst-case scenario document, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) chief executive Richard Burnett said: “We’ve been consistently warning the government that there will be delays at ports but they’re just not engaging with industry on coming up with solutions.

“Traders need 50,000 more customs intermediaries to handle the mountain of new paperwork after transition but Government support to recruit and train those extra people is woefully inadequate.”

Meanwhile Logistics UK, formerly the Freight Transport Association, was said to be furious last week after being told the government’s Smart Freight system – designed to reduce the risk of cargo delays once Britain is outside of EU rules – would still be in testing mode in January when British exports face new border regulations.

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The leaked letter comes as a think tank said failure to reach an agreement with the EU in post-Brexit trade talks could hit Britain’s economy three times harder in the long term than coronavirus.

Queues at the border, shortages of fresh food and medicine as well as more “hassle” travelling to the continent are also possible, according to the UK in a Changing Europe group.

A report by the organisation, based on modelling with the London School of Economics (LSE), said the impacts of coronavirus may mitigate or obscure the effect of a no-deal exit.

But it warned that not forming an agreement with Brussels would have a significant impact in the long term.

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