A prominent group of Conservative MPs have called on cabinet ministers to accelerate the preparation of Britain’s ports for Brexit in order to prevent “gridlock” for the British economy.
A report endorsed by the European Research Group of Tory backbenchers says urgent action is needed to improve customs checks, widen roads, speed up infrastructure projects and produce lorry parks.
It also calls for an expanded treaty with France to cover customs and a single government ministry to cover all issues relating to the border.
The document, entitled Ready on Day One, suggests there is a real possibility that no deal will be achieved with the EU27 by the spring of 2019, and says Theresa May’s government needs to prepare for that potential outcome.
“Gridlock at the channel ports will mean gridlock in the UK economy,” says the report, highlighting how disruption in Dover in 2015 resulted in queues of 4,600 lorries stretching back 30 miles, and four days of disruption at a cost of £1bn.
The report, written by the ERG’s treasurer, Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, says that with “proper planning” the UK could be ready for Brexit.
Elphicke has presented his findings to the chancellor, Philip Hammond, and the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, on whom he promised to “keep up the pressure”. He and seven other Tory MPs in coastal constituencies have discussed the report with the Brexit minister Steve Baker, who chaired the ERG before entering government.
The group, which comprises both remain and leave campaigners who are now committed to making sure Brexit happens, has made clear that it hopes a trade deal will be achieved. But the report sounds a sceptical note about the timeframe.