‘This is going to be disaster’ – Deep division over Kent’s Brexit readiness

Brexit lorry park at Manston Photo Swift Aerial Photography

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

Deep division over the county’s readiness for Brexit was laid bare during a heated discussion among Kent county councillors.

The fate of the UK remains uncertain as the looming deadline of the European Union (EU) transition end date on December 31 fast approaches.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to seek a trade deal with his European partners but major disagreements remain between the two sides over fishing rights and trade competition rules, making the prospect seem less likely.

Kent County Council’s (KCC) Conservative administration says it wants to keep the roads clear across the 12 districts, but serious concerns were raised about the likelihood of that during an online full council debate yesterday.

Cllr Barry Lewis

Thanet will contain a customs checkpoint for 4,000 HGVs in a Brexit lorry park at Manston Airport. Margate county councillor Barry Lewis (Lab),  said: “KCC are doing all they can, but with one hand tied behind their backs because of Government inaction. This is going to be a disaster.”

His comments came as KCC’s 81 elected members were told that key issues remain unresolved, namely around logistics.

Whitehall’s Kent Access Permit (KAP) has not been launched but will be required by hauliers to cross the Channel. It is also unclear how Kent will deal with queues of more than 7,000 lorries over a 24-hour period from January 1.

Ashford county councillor Paul Bartlett (Con), who represents an area with a customs site, in Sevington, for up to 1,700 HGVs, said KCC’s Tory administration had done “everything possible” to protect the residents of Kent.

HGVs Photo Kent Police RPU

This includes having emergency traffic management plans, such as Operation Fennel, to keep vehicles moving freely that are not destined for France.

Meanwhile, other Brexit lorry parks have been set up at locations outside the county, such as North Weald Airfield in Essex, to reduce the traffic burden on Kent’s roads.

But KCC Labour group leader, Cllr Dara Farrell, said “clarity is needed” around the enforcement of the KAP, with police expected to issue fines of up to £300 for Euro-bound HGVs entering the county without the correct papers.

He worried that Kent would struggle to regain its Garden of England title after Brexit and said: “It will take more than Paul O’Grady climbing Canterbury Cathedral to dissuade the rest of the world that Kent is now a toilet.”

Maidstone county councillor Gary Cooke (Con) said the concerns laid out by KCC’s administration were “brutally honest” while Cllr Sean Holden (Con), of Tunbridge Wells, said he was “very optimistic” there would be minimal disruption.

He said: “There’s a lot of project fear being revived here. The terms the EU are offering us are wholly unacceptable, an infringement of our sovereignty.”

Yet, KCC main opposition leader Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem) pointed to stockpiling carried out by major supermarkets across the UK. He said: “They are acutely aware of the risks of supplies being held up in the early part of next year.”

It was confirmed this week that KCC will have new clamping powers to help keep the roads in the county clear of illegally parked HGVs for six months in Maidstone, Swale and east Kent.

Concluding, Cllr Roger Gough (Con), leader of KCC, said: “Our responsibility is to do our very utmost with the powers that we have to ensure that people in Kent can go about their business with as little disruption as possible.”


  1. Boris Johnson does not want a deal he wants to be the golden boy among the Brexit group.Regardless of the cost or disruption it causes. Had Blair not introduced open door and Cameron not been so useless we would not be heading towards a disaster.

  2. Britain cannot get a deal with the EU under the conditions those member states have made. We would be better having the no deal and starting negotiations again when the EU realises they have lost this countries huge funding.
    It probably will be hectic on the roads for 6 months but the UK will have free range to deal elsewhere without interference.

    • Ah, you’re still going with the ‘they need us more than we need them’ schtick. now in gross terms we imported more from the EU than we exported however, in percentage terms the trade the EU could loose is much smaller than the UK percentage of total exports – some 44%. Also, the EU have some 80 deals around the world with other countries – we have half a dozen.
      But I agree, lets leave it a couple of months for the reality to sink in.

  3. Our Foreign Trade Ministers should be approaching Trade Ministers in each and every Country, to work with them, totally disregarding the EU in Brussels and Strasburg.
    The EU has ‘0’ rights to interfere with each Country’s own wishes for Trade with the UK.

  4. “He said: “There’s a lot of project fear being revived here. The terms the EU are offering us are wholly unacceptable, an infringement of our sovereignty.””
    He just doesn’t get it.
    We left the club. The EU owes us nothing. They don’t have to offer anything.
    Boris is stuffed.
    If he declares “no deal” the supermarket shelves will rapidly empty, and the few remaining international businesses in the UK will relocate to Europe.
    On the other hand, if he strikes any meaningful sort of deal, the Brexiteers in his cabinet and on his back benches will have his guts for garters.

    I’m going to buy one of those hotdog stalls, and set it up on the hard shoulder of the M20.
    If I could get any sausages.

  5. May I suggest that the ferry companies re- instate some of the sailings to the 2018 levels P&O have halved the crossings since the virus started

  6. I have never understood this sovereignty business. Let me work this out:
    1.The EU is the evil empire and is run by unthinking bureaucrats. The UK needs to leave because the EU is a supranational body which wants to impose its rules on innocent countries, via the European Court of Justice.
    2. We leave with no deal and rely on the World trade Organisation or WTO.
    3.The WTO is not the COOP, it is a supranational body which imposes its rulings via its court system. It is run by bureaucrats.
    So, tell me, how does this work? Because I am confused by this sort of nincompoopery.
    As for that half wit from Tunbridge Wells I hope he finds HGV’s parked nose to tail along his street and perhaps then he will understand what this is all about.

    • Well said George. Swopping one set of bureaucrats for another is no victory. It will still cost us a fortune in tariffs.

    • I understand that the problem is not capacity on the ferries or Eurostar, but the checking of papers, manifests, tariffs, bills of lading and so on.
      Up until 31 Dec, such things were not needed in travelling between UK and EU. From 1 Jan, they will be.

  7. Again, we became too dependent upon importing our toys and food years ago. Countless conservative governments decided to push paper around The City creating huge wealth for a select few. The banking system crashed, the paper became worthless. Industry and food production now cannot meet the UK demands still we forge ahead with covering green field sites with houses. It beggars belief.

  8. I’m beginning to think that this Brexit lark may not have been such a good idea after all. But hey-ho, Kent is going to get what it voted for, so it can hardly complain.

Comments are closed.