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NPA expresses concern over potential two-day Brexit export delays

23rd Sep 2020 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has expressed concern and urged businesses to start making the necessary preparations now, after Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove warned that exporters to the EU could face massive queues after the Brexit transition period ends.

lorry queuesIn a letter to business organisations, Mr Gove, who is responsible for no deal planning, sets out a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ of ‘maximum queues of 7,000 port bound trucks in Kent and associated maximum delays of up to two days’.

This is based on an assumption that up to 70% of freight trucks travelling to the EU could arrive unprepared for new border controls when they come in at the end of the transition period on January 1, 2021.

 The EU is expected to impose full goods controls on the UK, stopping all freight without the correct documentation at border control points, with new checks required regardless of whether the UK strikes a trade deal with the EU or not.

According to the Cabinet Office document, if businesses are not prepared this will cause problems at the busiest ‘shorts straits’ routes Dover to Calais and in the Eurotunnel, with both imports and exports disrupted to a similar extent.

The disruption is predicted to build in the first two weeks of January, and could last three months or longer, should France rigorously apply Schengen passport checks on hauliers at Dover and the Channel Tunnel, the document says.

The letter also raises the prospect of a winter spike in Covid-19 leading to absences of port and border staff.

The intention is to encourage businesses to prepare now for the new border checks to try to avoid this level of disruption. The Government said the scenario set out was not a prediction but an illustration of what could be reasonably expected.

Gove3Mr Gove’s letter states: “Irrespective of the outcome of negotiations between the UK and EU, traders will face new customs controls and processes

“Simply put, if traders, both in the UK and EU, have not completed the right paperwork, their goods will be stopped when entering the EU and disruption will occur. It is essential that traders act now and get ready for new formalities.

“We are supporting traders to take the necessary steps for the end of the year and have launched a communications campaign in the UK and the EU to help traders to get ready. Updated information can be accessed via"

The letter also stresses the importance of hauliers taking action to minimise the risk of disruption by ensuring the goods they carry have completed the necessary EU Member State processes.

The UK Government will be contacting haulage companies in the UK and the EU directly, running targeted advertising and issuing new guidance for hauliers.

However, the freight industry has expressed concern recently that the government is not fully prepared with the plans and systems in place to deal with post-Brexit changes, particularly against the difficult economic backdrop of COVID-19, the BBC reports.

A recent meeting between the industry and government was described as a ‘washout’, with insiders describing the relationship as ‘fraught’ and hauliers fearful that they were being cast as the ‘fall guys’ for delays and disruption likely in January.

NPA reaction

Mr Gove’s letter reinforces concerns about the implications for trade in pork products, cull sow carcases, and live breeding animals from the start of next year, particularly if there is no EU trade deal in place.

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “This is a real concern for the UK pig sector – the two-way trade in pork products is critical and disruption could be catastrophic.

“We urge traders and hauliers to do all they can to ensure they have the right documentation, but it would be wrong to pin the blame on industry for this. These efforts have been hampered by a complete lack of information on exactly what is required by government – they are not blameless here!

“There are numerous issues still to be addressed, particularly if we leave without a deal on January 1, from the lack of suitable border control posts and available vets in Calais to facilitate live exports to questions over export health certificates and labelling. We need answers, and we need them soon.”


The Government will be holding various webinars to address the issues surrounding the export of live animals and meat products.

You can view the details HERE