Hauliers dismiss UK no-deal Brexit rehearsal as ‘totally frivolous’

Operation Brock aimed at testing UK’s ability to ease congestion near Channel ports

Britain's government sent a convoy of 87 trucks on a test-run from a little-used airport to the country's main trading gateway to continental Europe on January 7, a rehearsal for the upheaval of a no-deal Brexit that was mocked as a waste of money.

 

A large convoy of lorries descended on a disused airfield Monday as the British government carried out a major test of its plans for UK border disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Nearly 100 lorries arrived at Manston Airport near Ramsgate in Kent early on Monday to line up along the runway before driving along the A256 towards Dover.

The trial, called Operation Brock, is testing out the site as a mass HGV holding bay to ease congestion on roads to Channel ports.

While the UK department for transport said the simulation would help to prepare Britain for a no-deal Brexit, Irish hauliers described it as a meaningless exercise.

A trial at the former Manston Airport site in Kent of a government plan to hold lorries in the event of post-Brexit disruption at the channel ports. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
A trial at the former Manston Airport site in Kent of a government plan to hold lorries in the event of post-Brexit disruption at the channel ports. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Verona Murphy, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, said the no-deal planning exercise in Kent was “of no help and totally frivolous” given that the sample of 89 trucks bore no relation to the thousands of lorries that passed through Dover every day.

“It is totally and utterly bonkers,” said Ms Murphy, who represents many Irish hauliers who use the port of Dover on the so-called UK landbridge route between Ireland and continental Europe.

“From our perspective, it is going to take an hour extra to go there. This means our hauliers will have stay overnight in the UK because driver hour regulations means we have to park up. What will the authorities do with all the trucks then? Is this going to be a truck park? It is a customs stop?”

Taking a small convoy of trucks to a disused airfield in light traffic was “not like for like” comparing with what might happen in the scenario of a no-deal Brexit at Dover, she said.

“You are talking about thousands of trucks every day. If a truck that was transiting through wouldn’t need to go there, that would make some sense. I have no idea what this is about,” she said.

David McArdle whose Dublin-based haulage company DG McArdle International uses the Dover-Calais transit route to Europe said that if the airfield was not going to be used for customs checks, then trucks may have to queue again at Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“If you come out of a park to go to another park or queue, what is the point?” he said.

Daily traffic

About 10,000 trucks pass through Dover going to and from continental Europe every day on a typical busy day. The port handles about 17 per cent of the UK’s annual trade.

“Even if you take it that it is 5,000 lorries in and 5,000 out, 5,000 exporting in a day, that is 208 trucks an hour on a 24-hour period. They come with 89? It is a total non-runner,” said Mr McArdle.

Trucks sit stacked on a highway en-route to Dover from Manston Airport. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Trucks sit stacked on a highway en-route to Dover from Manston Airport. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The first practice run from Manston airfield began in rush-hour shortly after 8am, with four convoys leaving at intervals between 8.13am and 8.39am.

The first of the convoys arrived in Dover at 8.52am.

Up to 150 lorries were initially anticipated to take part. By mid-morning, 89 had been involved, the department confirmed after the first test on Monday.

Also known as Kent International Airport, the site closed in 2014 after owners were unable to find a buyer.

The Economic and Social Research Institute, the Government think tank, has estimated that 53 per cent of Irish goods exports to continental Europe and beyond are exported through the UK. Two thirds of Irish exporters use the UK landbridge to access continental markets. – Additional reporting PA

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