By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Kent County Council (KCC) has warned the government there is “still much to do” for Brexit as it seeks to resolve outstanding logistical issues over the next 28 days.
Chiefs at KCC say necessary preparations have not been completed ahead of the UK’s looming deadline for the end of the European Union (EU) transition period on December 31.
Concerns have been raised that Whitehall’s HGV online system, which will give hauliers permission to cross the Channel into France, has not been “fully tested” while it remains unclear how Kent will deal with queues of more than 7,000 lorries.
KCC leader Roger Gough (Con) will present another Brexit report to councillors next Thursday. He will lay out the “remaining risks” faced by the county as he stresses the need for the Conservative Government to take decisive action.
In the 12-page document, he says: “With 28 days to go until the EU Transition period ends on December 31, there is still much to do to complete the preparations.
“We are relying on Government to provide medical and welfare facilities at each of the key sites, to ensure that a fully tested ‘Check an HGV service’ online system is ready and functional for hauliers to be able to cross the Channel as smoothly as possible.
“We also need Government to provide details of how it will deal with levels of freight that exceed Kent’s capacity.”
At least five Brexit lorry parks will act as customs checkpoints for hauliers who do not have the right documents when they enter Kent from January 1. They include Ebbsfleet railway station near Dartford, Manston airport and two sites in Ashford.
Negotiations continue to purchase another site in Dover, which is expected to be completed by HMRC over the next two weeks.
Whitehall bosses say they are seeking an EU free trade agreement to allow free travel of hauliers into Europe.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Preparations for the end of the EU transition period are well underway to ensure the free flow of freight across our borders.
“We are working closely with the Kent Resilience Forum on their local traffic management plans and have provided over £60million for Highways England to help keep traffic flowing on the M20 by creating a movable barrier.
“This builds on the £705m of Government investment announced in July for border related infrastructure, jobs and technology as part of the preparations.”
Local emergency planning group, the Kent Resilience Forum, continue to work with UK and French police forces to ensure “sharing” of information on congestion on each side of the channel.
Huge queues built up on the M20 last week after French trials were conducted for post-Brexit procedures.
Meanwhile, KCC continue to seek temporary powers from the DfT to enforce against HGVs parking on residential streets in East Kent, Swale and Maidstone.
Haulage companies based in East Kent will be supplied with a local permit to enable them to travel directly to the ports. Fines of up to £300 will be issued for lorries who fail to have a Kent Access Permit, which is not yet prepared.
The UK Government says a demo site can be tested by hauliers via ps://check-an-hgv-
Maidstone County Hall councillors will discuss the Kent Brexit situation at a virtual full council meeting in seven days’ time from 10am.