By World Infrastructure Journal-
The House of Lords EU Goods Sub-Committee remains “sceptical” that the UK is logistically ready for the transition period to end.
In a letter to the Rt Hon Michael Gove urging the Government to take immediate action, the Sub-Committee revealed that over the course of five evidence sessions, it had found that the UK is unlikely to have the necessary infrastructure ready for when the transition period ends on 31st December 2020.
Within the letter, Baroness Verma stated that "we are not confident that all the necessary technological, physical and welfare arrangements will be in place in time to avoid or mitigate significant disruption following the end of the transition period". There is specific concern surrounding the customs sector, customs IT systems, traffic management in and around Kent, ports and the Channel Tunnel and the readiness of physical infrastructure.
The Sub-Committee revealed that construction work on necessary ports has not started in many locations, tech systems which are set to be used in less than a month are still in their trial phases and funding has yet to be released. They also stated that the guidance offered by Government to business and employees has been inadequate, resulting in widespread uncertainty.
With the growing likelihood that a no-deal Brexit is on the cards, the lack of preparation at these vital customs points is of great concern. This situation is not as a result of these stalled negotiations however and raised her concerns that in the four years since the Brexit referendum, the Government has remained "too optimistic and this has been reflected in weak and undeveloped contingency plans at every level". She predicts that this lack of preparation "will lead to unnecessary disruption in the UK-EU trade following the end of the transition period".
Specific findings within the letter include;
- There is insufficient capacity in the customs intermediary sector to handle additional post-transition customs checks
- Facilities for drivers are inadequate and will have serious welfare, safety and legal implications for those stuck in what may be delayed queues. Comfort breaks and sustenance have not been adequately considered or provided for.
- Animal welfare issues may arise for vehicles carrying livestock if they are stuck in queues for a long time.
- Small businesses will struggle to access these IT systems or the services of the customs intermediary sector which appears to be under-resourced
- The plan to divert traffic depending on destination is vulnerable to road closures caused by accidents and it does not take account of the reality of haulier practices.
- The delivery of the Check an HGV system has been left too late, and that some hauliers will be unable to get a Kent Access Permit (KAP). Notwithstanding some serious reservations about the readiness of enforcement processes, it seems likely that some hauliers will suffer a financial penalty because of the Government’s late delivery.
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