Brexit: Portaloos needed for thousands of lorry drivers caught up in ports chaos, minister reveals

Portaloos will be set up in Kent and potentially in areas “throughout the country” for lorry drivers caught up in ports chaos after Brexit. Rachael Maclean, the transport minister, revealed the plan – amid predictions of queues of up to 7,000 trucks unable to reach the Continent. “We have detailed plans that we worked up for provision of, not only Portaloos, but other facilities for drivers, not only in Kent,” she told MPs.

“We don’t want to see them in queues and we want to think about the impact on them,” she added. One MP warned of lorry driver already having to relief themselves in lay-bys, with a “proliferation of bottles that look like they’re filled with Irn Bru”. Ms Maclean also conceded there will be a big shortage of permits for hauliers, if the UK crashes out of the transition period at the end of the year without a deal, admitting: “We know it will not be adequate.”

There are currently 8,000 firms with permission to drive in the EU – boasting 39,000 trucks – but as few as 2,200 could be available after 1 January. The Portaloos plan comes after the revelation that truck drivers will need what has been dubbed a “passport for Kent” – an access permit to enter the county, to ease congestion. Exporters face two-day delays to reach France, with 70 per cent of trucks not ready for new checks, creating the risk of queues of up to 7,000 lorries snaking through Kent.

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Haulage representatives told the inquiry of a staggering mountain of red tape that will be needed – even if a trade deal is reached, because of leaving the single market and customs union.

It would include a movement reference number for each product, a safety and security declaration, an export health certificates and phytosanitary certificates – in order to drive to France.

The EU is expected to impose full goods controls on the UK from 1 January, stopping all freight without the correct documentation as the reality of Brexit bites. The disruption is assumed to build in the first two weeks of January, but could last for three months or longer should France rigorously apply Schengen passport checks on hauliers. Ms Maclean admitted action would need to be taken to help lorry drivers stuck in “stationary traffic”, in Kent and “a range of other areas throughout the country”.

“We really want to minimise the impact on those drivers who are already working really hard and we don’t want to see them in queues and we want to think about the impact on them,” she told the committee.

Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, said lorries had been sent to Italy and Spain at the height of the pandemic to secure supplies for the UK.  But there was now a “risk to our supply chain”, without a deal “if EU hauliers don’t decide to come”. 

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