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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Chaos and traffic jams in Kent?

You really couldn't make this up - first of all Boris Johnson negotiates an internal UK border in the Irish Sea, effectively introducing customs barriers for any good travelling between Ireland and the rest of the country, then he threatens to break international law by legislating to renege on this commitment, now the government has created a second internal border - in Kent.

The Guardian reports that Michael Gove, the minister for the Cabinet Office and chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster told the Commons that lorry drivers would need a “Kent access permit” to get into the county from 1 January with “police and ANPR cameras [automatic number plate recognition]” enforcing the system.

He outlined a regime, whereby drivers, British or foreign, who are travelling, for instance from depots in the Midlands, will need to get a permit before they arrive in Kent if they intend to board a ferry or Eurotunnel train:

The KAP has been considered inside Whitehall for some time as a means of averting traffic chaos in the county, but this is the first time it has been confirmed by the government as an operational plan for next January.

According to a leaked border delivery document seen by the Guardian, the scheme was due to be approved last week at a meeting of the exit operating committee, chaired by Gove.

“We want to make sure that people use a relatively simple process in order to get what will become known as a Kent access permit,” he told parliament.

“If they don’t have the material required, then it will be the case that through policing, ANPR cameras and other means, we will do our very best to ensure that … constituents [in Kent] are not inconvenienced,” he added.

Under government plans revealed in a leaked document, KAPs will be issued only to drivers who have completed all the paperwork necessary to board a ferry or Eurotunnel train to Calais.

According to the document seen by the Guardian last week, the KAP system “is proposed to be enforced in Kent with a £300 [fine] for port-bound HGVs that travel without a Kent access permit”.

The government has not said how it will enforce the KAP. Earlier this week, the Labour MP Angela Eagle asked: “Who’s going to be patrolling the Kent borders to make sure that no lorry goes into Kent if it hasn’t got that passport?

“Where are the border posts for going into Kent going to be? It’s all very well saying we are going to need it, but are we going to have Kent border police or border guards?” she asked at the Treasury select committee on Tuesday.

Industry leaders have also been concerned. One said it would need physical checks to “weed out” those with a KAP and those without, which was a non-starter in their view.

On Tuesday, Gove wrote to hauliers to warn that if they do not prepare now for Brexit they could face queues of up to 7,000 trucks in Kent, confirming internal cabinet analysis of the potential disruption caused by the UK’s departure from the single market in January.

So much for us leaving the EU to cut bureaucracy and red tape. It looks like we will be substituting free trade for chaos instead, and poor Kent is on the front line.
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