Charlie saves the day
Determined to be ready on day one
Ever since the EU referendum in 2016, we have been urging the Government to make sure we are ready for Brexit, deal or no deal.
We knew Brexit would present a challenge – and that nowhere would preparations be more important than at the Dover frontline. The Channel Ports account for around a third of the UK’s entire trade in goods. It’s in everyone’s interests – the French’s as well as ours – that traffic continues to flow.
However, there is of course a risk that the likes of President Macron may seek to punish us for daring to leave the EU. He may wish to make an example of us – in order to deter anyone else from having the courage to follow our lead.
That’s why back in 2016 I got together with industry experts and worked up a plan to ensure we are ready on day one. Our blueprint set out how we could be prepared for every eventuality. Yet sadly the Government has so far failed to grasp the nettle and properly prepare for ‘no deal’ as they should have.
We are now leaving the EU in little over three months. It’s crunch time. That’s why last week I organised a ‘no deal’ summit at the Department for Transport with the Roads Minister.
It was great to get MPs, the port, police, Highways England, Kent County Council and Dover District Council round the table. There were a few things we made very clear to the Minister.
Firstly, that the Department’s priority must be to stop port traffic from causing gridlock in Dover town. Secondly, that we have serious concerns about proposals to use Manston Airport as a lorry park. And thirdly, that we must ensure Kent Police have the funding required to handle any traffic queues in the event of no deal.
It was confirmed that Highways England’s so-called Operation Brock will soon become a reality. Plans to erect steel barriers along the Londonbound carriageway between Junctions 8 and 9 of the M20 for the contraflow system will go ahead in February, deal or no deal.
I urged the officials to look at whether the Dover TAP cameras could enable an automatic number place recognition system to be used. That way any trucks caught skipping the queues would be sent all the way to the back or hit with fines.
Two days later I brought fellow Kent MPs along to the Port of Dover, so they could see first-hand just how vital it is that we keep trucks moving. This follows a visit from the Transport Secretary to the docks a few weeks before.
I am determined to keep up the pressure and so we can be prepared for every eventuality. We must have a clear plan for Kent – and to make sure our police and authorities have the resources they need to keep traffic flowing.
Of course, leaving the EU presents a challenge, particularly here at the frontline. But even though they knew it would be tough, 17.4 million people still chose to accept that challenge, including two-thirds of Dover and Deal. It’s our job as politicians to take up that challenge too – and use all our energies to deliver for the people.