David Dingle, the chair of Maritime UK, has urged the UK government to invest in rail and road infrastructure to prevent a permanent 20 mile-long traffic jam in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Speaking to reporters in London last week, Dingle suggested that an ‘open-ended’ Brexit transition period would be the best way to manage potential losses in the maritime sector. Otherwise, the need for new customs checks could cause what he described as a permanent 20 mile-long traffic jam.
Dingle also expressed concern that additional infrastructure could not compensate for a lack of a new customs agreement with the EU. In particular, he warned that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU single market without a deal in place would mean extra checks on all lorries at the ports at Dover, UK, and Calais, France.
While France has already begun to hire new customs officials to prepare for the eventuality of a Brexit with no deal, the UK has not done the same, and this shortfall could create chaos in road infrastructure at the small Channel port of Dover.
How bad could the problem get?
Dingle warned of a potentially permanent 20 mile-long traffic jam, similar to that experienced during Operation Stack, which involves lorries queuing on the M20 motorway in the event of a disruption to the Eurotunnel or ferry services.
It could mean that lorry drivers could be stuck on the roads approaching Dover for up to two days, he added. This is because there is a lack of space in Dover to carry out lorry checks, and a proposed extension remains under judicial review.
Dingle bemoaned that such problems were avoidable, but said that the voice of the maritime industry was being ignored amid the clamour of other stakeholders in Brexit negotiations.
The Maritime UK chair elaborated: “We are lost in politics. The meltdown will come back to the roll-on, roll-off ports. We are shouting loudly about this, we have been for a while, but you do feel you are banging your head against a brick wall.”