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Britain plans law to speed post-Brexit trade

By Graeme Roberts | 22 October 2020

Britain announced on Thursday it would introduce legislation to try to minimise major delays and disruption at one of its busiest trade routes when it fully leaves the European Union, Reuters reported.

Last month, the government said there could be queues of 7,000 trucks in southeast England waiting for ferries to Europe if businesses failed to get the right paperwork in place.

According to the news agency report, the UK government said it would now bring forward legislation to enforce Operation Brock, its strategy for managing traffic flow heading to and from the port of Dover in Kent, and providing holding parking spaces for thousands of trucks if needed.

This strategy has been used in the past when industrial disputes affecting ferry or border enforcement officials has halted or slowed ferry crossings. The trucks are parked along a closed off lane of the M20 in what is known as Operation Stack.

Under the post-Brexit rules, heavy goods vehicles will need to obtain a digital Kent Access Permit before they enter the county or face a fine of GBP300 pounds, to enable the smooth flow of traffic onwards to the Channel Tunnel and Dover from where trucks travel into France and the European Union, Reuters said.

With just over two months until the end of the transition period, it was not yet clear what sort of relationship Britain and the EU would have from January.

The the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has long called for any post-Brexit trade deal to enable 'frictionless' trade in components and finished vehicles between the UK and the EU bloc. Today it claimed the UK exiting the EU on 31 December without a trade deal, thus reverting to World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms imposing a 10% tariff on finished vehicle trade, would be the worst possible outcome.

Trade deal talks were due to resume later on Thursday, marking a new push to regulate billions of dollars worth of business, Reuters said.

The government said it was also launching a communications campaign to help truckers prepare for the changes and would set up dozens of information sites across Britain to offer assistance.

Truckers should also apply for a European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) permit as a precautionary measure, the government added, as these would be needed if there was no new trading relationship agreed.

By putting in place these plans we're ensuring Kent keeps moving, our fantastic haulage industry is supported, and trade continues to flow," transport minister Grant Shapps said in a statement cited by the news agency.

Lorries carrying time-sensitive, perishable exports such as fresh and live seafood and day old chicks would be prioritised at the border, added the government.

Such a policy would appear to exclude auto parts which are shipped in both directions on a just-in-time and/or just-in-sequence basis.

Reuter noted Dover handles 17% of the United Kingdom's goods trade as up to 10,000 trucks pass through every day.