As we approach the end of this terrible year I suspect I will not cheer anyone up by reminding them that the end of the Brexit transition period is very close. It is a matter of huge interest to the whole country but is of course of particular concern to us in Kent because of the possibility of disruption at the ports spilling over into chaos on our roads.
As I write this it is not clear whether there will be trade deal or not, but I learned from road hauliers recently that on the narrow point of how freely Dover and the Tunnel will work from January, whether there is deal or not does not make a huge amount of difference. Most of the new paperwork will be required anyway, so the key is how many lorries get here without the right permissions to travel on to Europe.
We are seeing the preparations for Operation Brock, which creates a contraflow allowing two lanes of traffic each way on the M20 even when lorries are stacked, being finalised in the coming days. This at least looks as though it is on time. The Sevington lorry park—sorry, Inland Border Facility—is racing to be finished in time as well.
Frankly I am more concerned with whether the instructions to truck drivers will have been produced in time for the vast majority of them to have absorbed the new requirements. More than 80 per cent of the journeys across the Channel are made by foreign trucks, and the translations of the new rules have only been done in the last couple of weeks. I hope the industry rises to the challenge.
There is talk in the haulage industry that drivers from other countries will give Britain a miss for the first couple of months of 2021 until things settle down. That of course could threaten our supplies of food and materials, but it would take the pressure off Kent’s roads.