We've long been fighting for more funding locally to boost Brexit preparations at the Dover frontline. Ever since the referendum we've worked hard to get the Government to be ready on day one, deal or no deal.
Not only is it a sensible precaution, it's the best way of securing a good deal for our country. European leaders need to know we mean business and are prepared to walk away.
It's also important for our area. Nowhere will preparations be more needed than at Dover and the Tunnel. They account for around a third of the UK's entire trade in goods. It's in everyone's interests that traffic continues to flow.
That's why back in 2016 I got together with industry experts and worked up a blueprint. It set out how we could be prepared for every eventuality – by investing to create a modern, world-leading border.
As a result, the Chancellor set aside £3 billion for no-deal preparations. We worked with Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner to secure £850,000 for Kent Police. Most recently I held talks with Communities Secretary James Brokenshire, demanding more cash for the Channel Ports. Last week he announced nearly £300,000 for Dover District Council.
The Dover Brexit Taskforce met again this week to review preparations. Much has been done. Yet there was one key area of concern – using Manston Airport as a lorry park. The idea that lorries will leave the M20, cross Detling Hill and go to Manston makes little sense. An even greater concern is that lorries would then be expected to travel down the often single track A256 and then enter the port by the A2's single track section. I fear this will not work and leave Dover and Deal cut off.
Moreover, the priority must be to stop port traffic causing gridlock in Dover town. A ticket system or number plate technology need to be considered. That way any trucks caught skipping the queues would be sent all the way to the back or hit with fines.
I've spent a lot of time making our case. I brought fellow Kent MPs to the Port of Dover at the end of last year, so they could see first-hand just how vital it is that we keep trucks moving. I've met numerous ministers there too. We had MPs, the port, police, Highways England, Kent County Council and Dover District Council around the table for a 'no deal' summit at the Department for Transport with the Roads Minister.
Because it's vital we get this right. I am determined to keep up the pressure so we can be prepared for every eventuality.
Brexit is an opportunity to be grasped – not a problem to be managed. That's why we must make the most of it, while being fully prepared.
Much has been done. Now we just need to have a sensible plan to enable us to be as prepared as we can be, deal or no deal.
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