The people of Dover and Deal voted by a huge 62% to leave the European Union. So it's no surprise that so often when someone stops me in town they ask: "Why haven't we left yet?" And they're absolutely right. We need to get on with it.
It's vital that we deliver on the instruction of the British people and take back control of our borders, our laws, our money and our trade policy. There's no point doing this half-heartedly. We'll just end up being run by remote control by Brussels bureaucrats.
I have long argued that Brexit preparations – particularly here at the frontline in Dover and Deal – should be treated as a national priority. The truth is that after the EU referendum, we should have started major investment at the border the very next day.
Yet it seems too many Government officials just could not bring themselves to accept the Brexit vote. These defeatists who don't believe in an independent future for our island nation tell us we must keep some form of quasi-EU relationship. This is nonsense. There are many practical steps we should be taking now to solve the Brexit border challenge.
I've been making this case every chance I get in Parliament. And the Government has recently committed some cash. The £260 million allocated to HM Revenue and Customs and £395 million to the Home Office for Brexit preparations is a start – but only that. More is needed, and quickly.
This is the view of the firms who use our port. When I recently asked freight experts if we still had enough time, they said: "You would have to get a hell of a wiggle on."
So what practical steps can we take? At Dover, it makes sense to use the cameras and video technology we already have, so we can track vehicles through Automatic Number Plate Recognition. This could link up to the new customs IT system – which the Government must ensure is ready on time. We should get more firms signed up as trusted traders so trucks can just as easily cross the Channel without needless delays. Meanwhile, the new Lower Thames Crossing must be taken forward at speed and the M2/A2 upgraded and dualled all the way to Dover. We also need more lorry parking facilities built along the M20 – like at the Stop 24 services off junction 11.
The Government must not underestimate just how vital Dover is. More than 10,000 trucks pass through our port every day. We handle £120 billion (17%) of the UK's trade in goods. And this is set to grow by 40% over the next 10 years.
So this isn't speculative spending. This funding was needed anyway. Yet it is more important now than ever. The EU think they have us over a barrel because hardly anything has been done to date. So whatever happens, we need get on with it.
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