The UK government is warning of 7,000 truck-long traffic queues in Kent in what is not an unimaginable worst case scenario due to Brexit. In a letter to Britain’s border industry, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said the flow of freight between Dover and Calais could be reduced by up to 80% compared to normal levels.
The government’s worst-case assessment is that as many as 70% of trucks traveling to the EU may not be ready for new border controls. “The biggest potential cause of disruption are traders not being ready for controls implemented by EU Member States on 1 January 2021,” Gove stated.
As preparing for customs checks on EU trade is one of the biggest logistical challenges facing Boris Johnson’s government, failure to come to a good compromise risks major disruption to commerce with the UK’s largest trading partner. The Brexit transition period will officially end on December 31.
The government’s fear is that trucks will be stopped by EU officials for failing to have the correct post-Brexit paperwork, causing supply chain chaos and adding to the economic pain of coronavirus.
Minister Gove said that any restrictions on traffic moving into the EU from the UK would impact freight flowing in the other direction too. The UK has tried to ease pressure on imports by deciding not to impose customs controls on goods coming from the EU until July 2021.
“We assume both imports and exports could be disrupted to a similar extent,” Gove’s letter said. “Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) that are caught up in congestion in the UK will be unable to travel to the EU to export products and/or collect another consignment.”