The biggest potential cause of disruption are traders not being ready for controls implemented by EU Member States on 1 January 2021,” Gove wrote to British businesses in a letter leaked this week, laying out a “worst case scenario” for Brexit.
These formalities will include an internal border of sorts, that will sport police and camera technology checking drivers to make sure they have a ‘Kent Access Permit.’ Kent is the southeasternmost county in England and the British terminus of the Dover-Calais tunnel.
Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Gove said the process to get such a permit will be “relatively simple,” despite concerns that there will not be enough time for businesses, drivers, and the government to properly prepare for such an undertaking. However, the minister also said the success of ports running smoothly will depend on cooperation with the EU and transportation companies.
Gove, who is handling the operation details of Britain’s decoupling from the EU, said that a government survey found only a fourth of businesses feel ready for the transition at this time.
He also warned drivers without the proper paperwork would be turned away, clogging other areas and leading to delays of up to two days for them.
Gove did not reveal how many of the promised 50,000 “custom agents” – meant to help businesses with the transition – have been recruited, and he did not commit to whether or not a promised IT system will be ready by January.
“It is incredible that ministers are only now admitting to their plans to arrest British truckers for entering Kent without new travel passports,” Rachel Reeves, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said, one of many to push back against Gove’s announcement.
The Food and Drink Federation also warned the potential delays laid out by Gove could mean food reaching the country in a state not fit for “human consumption.”
The government has ignored “repeated warnings” that businesses are not ready for these “new procedures,” said Robert Keen, director general of the British International Freight Association (BIFA).
Gove’s announcement of the police-controlled system has led to worries of a “de facto internal border” being created in the UK, as well as more chaos to come in determining how goods will efficiently move in and out of the country once the transition period is over.