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Time for Kent County Council to act on Brexit

November 14, 2017 10:02 PM
Originally published by Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

Kent Liberal Democrats are calling on the County Council to take a lead role in ensuring that crucial preparations are ready for Brexit in March 2019. Failure to put coordinated plans in place now could result in chaos on the county's road network after Brexit.

The Government's refusal to provide information about their preparations for post Brexit road disruption in Kent is a cause for alarm and serious concern. If there really are plans in place, then these need to be shared with all key agencies as a matter of urgency.

Rob Bird at the Dover Harbour Control Room with Baroness Kramer, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson, and Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Exiting the European Union and International Trade

Rob Bird at the Dover Harbour Control Room with Baroness Kramer, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson, and Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Exiting the European Union and International Trade

Last week Rob Bird, Leader of the Opposition at County Hall, joined a parliamentary team visiting the Port of Dover. They learnt that Dover handles over 5,000 lorries each way, every day, 364 days in the year. The Channel Tunnel handles a further 3,000 lorries each way, every day.

Rob commented: "Ferries are discharged and reloaded in the space of 45-50 minutes. It is crucial to keep traffic moving at all times. It was made clear that even the slightest hold up caused by additional checks post Brexit would very quickly cause gridlock within the port complex. As we have seen in the past, problems at Dover can soon have major repercussions for Kent's roads."

Earlier today the House of Commons public accounts committee reported that HM Revenue and Customs does not have proper funding yet to upgrade its customs systems in time for Brexit. It warns that if the UK leaves the EU without proper customs infrastructure, the results will be "catastrophic".

At present, customs checks for the few non-EU lorries that come into Dover are undertaken outside the Eastern Docks area. If new customs checks are required for the majority of lorries coming into Dover, then these will need to be established outside the port area.

Liberal Democrat Economic Development Spokesperson, Antony Hook, added: "The Conservative leadership at Kent County Council is showing minimal interest in the hard issues for Kent's economy resulting from Brexit.

"6,000 Kent companies export to Europe. There are 21,000 jobs connected to operations at the Port of Dover alone. If we don't keep trade flowing freely then a lot of jobs will be lost and Kent roads will stack up worse than ever.

"It is clear to Liberal Democrats that Kent needs to stay in the Customs Union. You can be in it without being in the EU. Jersey and Guernsey have that deal. Northern Ireland may get a deal to stay in the Customs Union. Kent needs a deal like that too.

"The Customs Union means no tariffs on imports and exports. Staying in the Customs Union will keep family bills down and ensure that our companies' exports are competitive."

Liberal Democrats put a motion to Kent County Council last month (see note* below) calling for all legal options for Kent including the Customs Union to be considered. The Conservatives voted it down.

Rob Bird said, "That debate made it clear that it's not good enough for Kent Conservatives to just stay quiet and leave preparations for Brexit to the Government.

"Up till now KCC has shown little real interest in publicly engaging with the key agencies striving to keep Kent's gateways to Europe flowing and our roads clear. With the Government showing no leadership, it is clearly time for the County Council to step up to the plate and give Kent a strong voice.

"Kent residents will pay a heavy price if they don't."

* The KCC debate on the Customs Union was at full council on 19th October. The motion and debate are the final item on the webcast - click here.