There is growing anger in Kent as the new customs lorry park in Ashford was officially announced.
In an article on Kent Online, Nigel Farage defended the Governments decision and said he did not think that Kent will become the permanent “Garden of Lorry Parks”, following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Mr Farage, who backs the 27-acre site next to junction 10a on the M20, does not believe hold-ups on the county’s roads will become “catastrophic” post-Brexit. But he does concede that the new lorry customs centre will result in a “bit more traffic” for Ashford.
Work on the new site in Ashford is due to begin today. The site is planned to alleviate traffic at the Port of Dover and at Eurotunnel, it will take shape on a plot of land branded MOJO – formerly called Stour Park.
There is fierce debate between the Remainers and Brexiteers as these new custom announcements are becoming public. Although the residents of Kent do not want any more of the ‘Garden Of England’ to be built on, opponents argue that the people of Kent voted for Brexit – and the lorry park is the end result.
Ashford’s deputy council leader Paul Bartlett says the chosen location does make sense. “There isn’t the space at Dover to do the HMRC checks – it is far too congested, they needed to bring it away from there,” he said. “They needed it at a point on the M20 after Eurotunnel, because it wouldn’t have worked having it in Folkestone as the lorries using the tunnel would have had to have turned around.
It is highly unusual to have custom checks so far from the physical border and could lead to a number of issues. Who is going to police the 20 miles between Ashford and Dover? Are HGV’s going to be allowed to stop when travelling between the two locations? Who will check that the cargo does not change – or that illegal immigrants are not decamping?
Another issue is the sheer quantity of lorries going through the new border. On the basis that 10,000 HGV’s cross the Channel both ways on an average day, an HGV could be arriving at the J10A Customs point every 9 seconds. For the first 6 months of 2021 only selected lorries will be asked to go to the Customs point, as an “honesty box” system will be used for the rest.
There isn’t the space at Dover to do the HMRC checks – it is far too congested
That is a huge concern for many, that only a tiny percentage of vehicles will be checked. The odds of getting stopped are small, which will encourage smugglers to send mutlipe shipments, in the hope that the majority will sail through.
Mr Farage has countered this by saying “I’m quite sure that because of the ‘trusted trader’ scheme most of these trucks that come through will be known by the authorities and trusted by them. It will speed things up.”
The BBC reported last year that less than half of trusted trader applications were approved and the Road Haulage Association said it’s members had been given chaotic, confusing and incomplete information. Furthermore the European Commission issued a notice on 30th January 2018, warning that in a no-deal Brexit, UK firms with the status would no longer be recognised by EU customs authorities.
It would seem that the Brexit argument is going to run right up until the end of the year. Kent has suffered with traffic in and out of the EU, due to bad weather, strikes and more, which has led to Operation Stack being implemented. It looks like this will continue long after we leave the EU.