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UK News Brexit: Workers turn 27-acre Kent field into park for 1,700 lorries

23:15  23 october  2020
23:15  23 october  2020 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Drone photos show a vast 27-acre Kent field dubbed 'Farage's Garage' being turned into a lorry park for up to 2,000 trucks in case of mass hold-ups at Dover before the Brexit transition period ends this year.

The development, next to Junction 10a in Ashford, Kent, is being constructed by the Government as it prepares for the negotiation period with the European Union to conclude in December.

Upon completion, the vast site will be used for HMRC customs checks, with an area available as a holding space for up to 2,000 trucks should delays arise for vehicles crossing the Channel.

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However, it is hoped vehicles will not need to be stored on the land and will be a 'customs checking site' by July.

Some 29 lorry parks are expected to be built across England in order to cope with potential post-Brexit border trading chaos as hopes of a UK-EU free trade deal are repeatedly dashed.

Locals will not have a say in the construction of the sites which are being built in Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Solihull, Kent, Essex, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

The sites have been planned because of fears that truck drivers will face long delays to enter the EU.

A petition and online campaign are currently calling for the facility in Kent to be named after Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, with some suggesting it be named 'Nigel's Folly' while others recommend 'Farage's Garage'.

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The European Union's chief negotiator continued discussions with his UK counterpart Lord Frost as the deadline for an agreement looms.

Speaking to French Television, Mr Beaune said: 'We thought the end of October was the final deadline. We are giving ourselves a few more days to give the negotiations a chance, but we need to know quickly.

'Michel Barnier has several days ahead of him where he is going to negotiate and then he will talk to us.

He is going to tell the head of state and government of the EU27: 'Here is a deal, and I think it is a good one' – and then we have to evaluate it. Or: 'I think the British have not shown sufficient movement to reach an agreement that protects our interests and then it's no deal.'

The Change.org petition, which has received thousands of signatures, says that 'everyone should genuinely be able to refer to this diesel soaked Valhalla as Nigel's Folly', adding: 'It may be that Mr Farage will be unable or unwilling to attend the unveiling of this great honour that we do him, but that shouldn’t get in the way of seeing his name gurn plastered all over the boundary fence at regular intervals.'

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While it is not clear if construction of any other sites has begun, an existing carpark in Gravesend, which has been used as a coronavirus testing facility, is set to be turned into a customs check point.

There are fears the UK could leave the EU without a free trade deal following the Brexit transition period, which could cause significant delays in vehicles crossing the border.

It was previously claimed that a failure to strike a Brexit deal by Boris Johnson's October deadline could mean up to 7,000 lorries would be forced to queue up ahead of crossing the Channel.

It emerged in July that the Department for Transport was looking to purchase the land in preparation for any potential trade disruptions as a result of Brexit.

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean later confirmed the move, adding there were 'two primary uses' for the land.

She said: 'First, government departments envisage using it as a permanent site for facilities related to future border processes, notably HMRC (as an office of departure/arrival for goods moved under 'transit' arrangements) and Defra (as a border control post for goods needing sanitary and phytosanitary checks).

'Second, the site may also be used as a contingency lorry holding area for the particular, foreseeable risk of significant disruption at the end of the transition period.'

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Ms Maclean added Downing Street had 'no intention' the site would become a permanent lorry holding facility for use in the event of 'cross-Channel disruption'.

The photos have appeared amid news that toilets and food and drink facilities for haulage drivers will line the M20 in Kent in preparation for the 7,000 lorries predicted to be stuck in static traffic on January 1.

With two-day-long queues expected to halt the industry when the EU implement full import controls on the UK at the start of next year, industry executives have demanded that provisions be made for the welfare of drivers.

Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the Road Haulage Association, who will be meeting with Michael Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, on Friday said: 'The devil is in the detail, we need to understand, will there be Portaloos down the M20? Will we be able to get water and food to drivers?

'We want that clarity out of Friday's meeting to make sure that level of detail is being considered.'

Discussing the number of trucks expected to be held on their way to UK ports Mr Burnett said: 'There's going to be 2,000 trucks on the M20, 2,000 trucks on Mojo in Ashford, another site, and potentially 4,000 in Manston.'

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Richard Ballantyne, CEO of British Ports Association, said that the 'risk' of queues at ports following January 1 'doesn't have to be realised if the government takes a pragmatic approach'.

He added: 'We are waiting for clarity of what support [facilities] drivers will have who are in these queues. This is not just about Kent, it's facilities across the country.

'What are those facilities and infrastructure going to be for drivers who are stuck in queues across the country - something we will touch on Friday.'

Speaking in a committee on Brexit preparedness in the transport sector Rachel Maclean MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport said: 'It is absolutely vital we consider the welfare of drivers and hauliers as these are hardworking people, we rely on the haulage industry for a supply of critical goods and we must consider their welfare.

'We have detailed plans for provision of not only portaloos but other facilities for drivers, not only in Kent if there is stationary traffic, but other places in the country.'

Maclean said: 'We are working in a lot of detail with the Kent Resilience Forum. We will be drawing on a combination of temporary lorry holding at A20 Dover TAP [Traffic Assessment Project] site, M20 between junction 8 and 9 and off-road sites and also we are procuring some temporary lorry holding capacity at Ashford, Sevington, the wider plan will feed all of that into using those sites if it becomes necessary if Operation Brock is active.'

The committee also raised the issue of the severe limits expected to face UK hauliers if bilateral agreements with EU member states are not made, or delayed, in the case of a no deal.

a close up of a blue door: Toilets will line the M20 as part of 'Operation Brock' © Provided by Daily Mail Toilets will line the M20 as part of 'Operation Brock'

Industry leaders warned that up to 39,000 UK haulage trucks could be rendered unusable after January 1 due to the limited number of ECMT permits allowed.

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Only 1 in 4 UK haulage companies (or 2,000 of the 8,000 UK haulage companies) will qualify for an ECMT permit.

Elizabeth de Jong, Director of Policy at Logistics UK said: 'There is a planned glide path to reciprocal arrangements - some reassurance that there won't be a sudden market failure in this area.'

‘The ECMT permit system gives very little reassurance so it's really important bilateral agreements are made. As only [2,000 of 8,000 UK hauliers] 1 in 4 UK hauliers could get a permit and they could only do one journey at a time with this permit.'

If bilateral agreements are not put in place the limits on ECMT permits could see UK facing a risk to it's supply chain, said Mr Burnett.

He added: ‘From my perspective ECMT is not a solution if we don't get the right deal. It's also fair to say bilateral arrangements are going to take some time to negotiate with each member states.

'This equates to around 39,000 trucks, a significant gap for EU hauliers to access Europe in the event of ECMT.'

During the committee all three industry representatives suggested they had not been provided with enough 'clarity' to properly prepare for January 1.

Mr Burnett of the Road Haulage Association said: 'At this stage there is evidence that business are not prepared.

'The haulage industry works with its customers to make sure they are prepared and in a poll last week 91 per cent felt they didn't have the clarity needed to be able to prepare.

'It is happening too slowly at this moment in time.'

What is a ECMT permit?

The permit, European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT), allows travel through the European Union (minus Cyprus) and to the countries of Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine.

'At the moment we are seeing more and more EU hauliers holding back, suggesting they may not even trade or come to the UK from January 1 depending on the potential chaos, in terms of business processes, backload availability and queues, but that's going to be a growing challenge for the market.

‘If we don't strike the right deal with the right access it may be a risk to our own supply chain. Through the Covid pandemic for instance, when we had a shortage of drivers in Italy and Spain we had to send UK vehicles to pick up more volume and bring it back, if we don't have the right deal this could be a risk to our supply chain if EU hauliers do stand and decide not to come.’

Mr Burner called a meeting held with Mr Gove a 'wash out' after it 'broke down' with 40 people on the round table raising 'personal issues'

While it is hoped new 'offices of departure' across the country which will be used to process and stamp paper work will stop traffic from 'funnelling into Kent', Mr Ballantyne added 'there may be queues there too.'

He said that he expects traffic to peak at Dover and the Euro Tunnel, in Folkestone.

Mr Ballantyne said that he supported the Government's new boarder crossing IT system, GVMS, 'in principle' but said that the 54 days left to implement it was a 'very short time scales to get the industry used to it'.

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Steven Gerrard cools talk of an England call-up for Rangers winger Ryan Kent .
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