Secrecy around Brexit border plans 'potentially toxic'

28 November 2018

MPs have said there is a real risk the Department for Transport (DfT) will not be ready should the UK leave the European Union without a negotiated deal.

A report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said alongside a risk of major disruption at the port of Dover, there were concerns over the department’s slow progress and poor communication over schemes to reduce disruption on the roads, such as Project Brock, in which the M20 is used to park queueing lorries.

Although the report recognises the difficulty faced by the DfT in planning for a variety of Brexit outcomes, MPs believe the lack of detailed information and “secrecy” surrounding the issue is hampering businesses’ ability to adequately prepare for a no-deal scenario.

PAC chairman, Meg Hillier MP said: “The department plans to spend £30-35 million this year on Project Brock, intended to manage traffic and lorry-queuing at Dover, but it is still to carry out proposed desk-based testing of the system and engagement with businesses has been poor.

“The secrecy around the department’s preparations, and the shortcomings in assurance on its progress, are a potentially toxic combination.”

As part of the report, the PAC has outlined its concerns and recommendations for the DfT on a number of issues including making sure required legislation is passed and that it is subject to proper scrutiny. It has also urged for written confirmation from the department on the progress being made to prepare for Brexit by Christmas.

The sentiment was echoed by PAC’s deputy chief executive Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, who believes that as the movement of good continues, the port of Dover will need to operate at an optimal level and more goods will have to travel through different ports.

“To minimise the disruption at Dover and the potential knock-on effect to hauliers travelling through the port, the department needs to ensure that Project Brock is ready to operate as early as possible,” he said.

Last week, Jim Harra, deputy chief executive at HM Revenue and Customs warned that Britain will have a ‘sub-optimal’ customs system in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

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