Border controls should be kept at Calais after Brexit to prevent more illegal migrants and asylum seekers entering Britain, according to council chiefs in Kent.
The leaders of both Dover and Shepway councils have warned Brexit minister David Davis that bringing back controls to the UK as part of any deal risks further increasing the number of migrants that would have to be dealt with.
A joint letter signed by the leaders of both local authorities states: “Dover and Shepway are keen to see border controls staying in France for vehicles and passengers inbound to the UK.
“The controls are currently at Coquelles for the Channel Tunnel and at Calais Port for the Port of Dover.
“The alternative – repatriating the incoming borders to the UK in less than two years’ time – would require significant investment in the land and infrastructure required to carry out checks on UK soil.
“Moving controls to the UK also has potential to increase the number of illegal migrants and asylum seekers arriving if the checks in France are removed or scaled back.
“This would increase the pressure on local authorities nationally – and the Home Office itself – by raising the demand for asylum dispersal places.”
The letter also warns any failure to secure alternative arrangements for customs checks could impose “significant new burdens on local authorities.”
It says these could include a “substantial increase in port health responsibilities if the inspection of foods from the EU is required post-Brexit.”
The letter continued: “This would increase the need for staff and processing areas and would slow the transit of freight.”
That could lead to delays getting products to shops and risk damaging the health of the retail, hospitality and farming sectors, according to the council chiefs.
The local authorities also flagged up the potential for delays for passengers after 2019 without a suitable system to check them.
The letter adds: “Without a viable E-system to help process non-UK passengers, ports and airports will have to manage lengthy queues, which risk deterring both business travellers and tourists.”
The current agreement for border checks to be carried out at Calais is a result of a bi-lateral treaty between the UK and France.
But there have been warnings from the French authorities and regional leaders that they would look to end the present arrangement once the UK leaves the EU.
The Department for Exiting the EU has been contacted for comment.