Brexit: Fresh border chaos fears as ‘haulier handbook’ to prevent meltdown on 1 January is delayed

A “haulier handbook” to prevent Brexit border meltdown on 1 January has been delayed and will not be ready for another month, it has been revealed. The guide to the mountain of new red tape required to transport goods was promised in early September – but will now not be available in full until 7 December, little more than three weeks before it is needed. Logistics UK, which represents freights group, warned time is running out to prevent “lorry queues at Dover and empty shelves in Northern Ireland“, when the transition period ends in just 50 days’ time.

“With the economy still reeling from handling the impact of Covid-19, the last thing UK PLC needs is another major shock of our own making,” said Elizabeth de Jong, its director of policy. Construction of border inspection posts for checks on animal products crossing the Irish Sea “has not yet started and will take up to six months to complete”, she said. And, on the handbook, Ms de Jong warned: “It is intended to give clear, vital guidance to drivers of all relevant nationalities and hence minimise the length of queues at ports.

MPs were told it had had to be reworked – and a full version, containing documents, maps and a checklist would not be published until 24 days before Brexit is completed. “It couldn’t answer that fundamental question in sufficient clarity – what documentation and checks?” Ms de Jong told the Commons Brexit committee.

In a warning letter to Michael Gove, she added: “This product must then be translated and circulated to thousands of hauliers across Europe so they can read and understand it, and prepare for 1 January 2021.” They will be urged to inform the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) that they are not heading to the Channel – but the guidance has not yet been made public and it is unclear how the process will work.

Hilary Benn, the committee’s chairman, said all hauliers would have to act “to avoid being pulled over by the police to say ‘Oi you haven’t got a Kent Access permit'”. “Non-EU destined lorries don’t know yet that they will need to do this,” the Labour MP warned. The vast new port checks will be necessary even if the UK and the EU strike a trade deal, because leaving the single market and customs union will end the free-flow of goods that takes place now.

When the 2016 referendum was held, Brexit campaigners repeatedly denied such checks would be required – but they are now described as inevitable, under the prime minister’s clean-break plans.

Stephen Bartlett, chairman of the Association of Freight Software Suppliers, said new customs declaration service (CDS) software for Northern Ireland-destined goods would not be ready for 1 January, adding: “I do not know what the contingency will be.” 

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