UK says no-deal Brexit could see 7,000-truck border queues

LONDON (AP) — The British government said there could be lines of 7,000 trucks at the English Channel and two-day waits to get into France immediately after the United Kingdom (UK) makes its economic break from the European Union (EU) at the end of the year.

Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Brexit preparations, described that as a reasonable worst-case scenario in a letter to logistics firms.

The government letter said that between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of trucks wanting to cross the Channel may not be ready for new paperwork and regulations that will come into effect on January 1.

“This could lead to maximum queues of 7,000 port-bound trucks in Kent and associated maximum delays of up to two days,” the document said.

The UK withdrew from the EU’s political institutions on January 31 but remains in a tariff-free transition period until the end of the year while negotiators try to work out a future trade relationship.

Heavy goods vehicles queue on a main road near Dover, southern England, after a police operation in the port city resulted in traffic congestion on nearby roads. PHOTO: AP

Even with a deal, Britain will be leaving the bloc’s single market and customs union, meaning some new checks and trade barriers. Without a deal there will be much greater disruption, with the UK and the EU having to slap tariffs on each others’ goods.

The two sides said a deal must be struck by October so it can be approved and ratified before January 1. But negotiators remain at loggerheads on key issues, especially European fishing boats’ access to UK waters and competition rules for businesses.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier is due to hold talks with his British counterpart David Frost in London yesterday ahead of a ninth formal round of negotiations next week.

The climate for the talks has been further chilled by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s introduction of a bill that would give the UK the right to override parts of the legally binding withdrawal agreement it struck with the bloc less than a year ago.

That has infuriated the EU, which has threatened legal action if Britain does not reverse course by the end of September. Johnson shows no signs of dropping the bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament.

The legislation has also caused an uproar in Britain. Five former prime ministers have criticised Johnson’s willingness to break international law, and the government’s top legal civil servant and most senior law officer for Scotland have both resigned.