MPs have backed my calls for major investment at the Dover border – "whether or not a deal is reached".
In a report published on Tuesday (28 November), the House of Commons' Exiting the European Union Committee unanimously agreed about the need for investment in technology and infrastructure at the Port of Dover.
The cross-party group of MPs recommended introducing electronic customs checks and building a lorry park near the port, with no committee members objecting. Having written a detailed report on the subject, I of course welcome the news.
Committee members have done a lot of research and spoken to several industry experts. They all agree how important investing in the Dover frontline is for the UK economy. Their findings echo what I have been saying for some time now – this is 'no regrets' spending. We need to upgrade our border systems anyway.
Dover, the M20 and the whole UK economy is already at risk of gridlock by disruption in Calais. Investment is needed now. This way the EU will know we mean business. And it ensures we are ready on day one, so we can forge ahead on day two.
I have called on the Government to invest at the border several times since the referendum result, asking the Prime Minister in the Commons and meeting Treasury ministers at the port. In last month's Budget, Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced he is setting aside £3 billion for Brexit preparations.
The recent Brexit committee report states: "Whether or not a deal is reached, we believe that the Government should be investing now in improvements in technology and infrastructure to ease the passage of goods through gateways like the Port of Dover; for example, by introducing electronic customs checks and building the proposed lorry park outside the Port of Dover.
"However, such measures would not deal with all the risks of serious delays in Dover and would have to be reciprocated across the Channel in order to be effective.
"We visited the Port of Dover where we met individuals from the Port Authority, officials from executive agencies based at the Port as well as ferry operators, to learn more about how the border will be affected by the UK's withdrawal from the EU and why it is so important for the UK's trade.
"A large amount of trade passes through Dover every day and the efficiency of the processes in place at the Port, and at Calais, have helped to minimise the time it takes for goods to move from supplier to customer on both sides of the channel.
"Furthermore, it has introduced a predictability to the delivery timetable that is important for sectors with time sensitive supply chains, such as the automotive sector and the agri-food sector.
"A no deal scenario, especially if it was before any of the necessary adjustments had been made in areas such as IT systems, infrastructure, recruitment and training of staff, would cause major disruption."
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