Brussels will be to blame if Brexit causes chaos at the border in January because of its “rules are rules” approach, according to Michael Gove.
The Cabinet Office minister said the EU’s failure to adopt a “laissez-faire approach” – as the UK has done, by postponing the implementation of full border controls for six months – would be responsible for trading disruption when the transition period ends.
Speaking to Logistics UK, a group representing hauliers, admitted that there would “inevitably be some disruption” in Kent, saying: “Not everything will be alright on the night.”
But, he claimed, there would only be “two to three weeks” of disruption before “steady, smooth and effective operation of our border systems” begins.
‘Rules are rules’
Regardless of whether the government is able to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU in the coming weeks, the UK will be leaving the single market and customs union – causing dramatic upheaval for businesses.
Gove hailed the “staged approach on our side of the border,” adding: “The one thing that I can’t do is to determine what’s going to happen on the other side of the border.
“And we know, from the approach that the EU have taken and the approach that the Commission generally takes that their view is rules are rules.
“When it comes to the checks that will be applied, they are going to apply them – I hope not in an overly-rigid way – but it is certainly going to be the case that we cannot expect a sort of laissez-faire, or flexible, approach at Calais, or in other ports.
“We’ve got to be ready for the requirements that they have been clear apply to all third countries.”
Lorry drivers fear two-day delays to reach France, with most believed to be unprepared for new checks and red tape – potentially leading to miles of queues through Kent.
The additional documentation required will include movement references for each product, safety declarations and export health certificates.
The government is planning to install portaloos on the side of motorways throughout Kent, in anticipation of the hours lorry drivers will spend waiting to reach ports like Dover and Folkestone.