At the end of the month, four and a half years after the EU Referendum, the transition period comes to an end and a new relationship with the EU will begin.
Our area is on the frontline of this historic change. Dover is home to the most successful Port of its type in the country. Each year more than £122Billion of trade, about one-fifth of the UK’s trade in goods, is transited through the Port. That’s around 4.5 million vehicles a year and around 10,000 lorries each day. So it is a strong vote of confidence in the Port – and the jobs, businesses and investment that it sustains across our community – that there is a national programme to manage the transition to ensure trade and traffic flows.
The transition traffic plans have been a mammoth enterprise spanning the country. Forty-five border information points are up and running, ensuring businesses can get the information they need to be prepared. There has been a multi-national and multi-lingual communications programme, recognising the breadth of countries who trade and transit goods with the UK.
The transition traffic work is underpinned by new laws that require HGVs not just to get ‘border ready’ with their paperwork but also to stick to the designated routes, along with Traffic Marshals and new enforcement powers. There is a special priority permit scheme for international hauliers based in East Kent as well as priority schemes for certain fresh and time-sensitive goods to ensure they can be allowed to get to their outward point, the Port or the Eurotunnel, as needed. There are contingency arrangements for medicines and critical goods at points of entry around the country.
Both the Port of Dover and the Port of Calais have been working for months so that they are as ready for the changes as they can be. I am working hard to ensure that a ‘Keep Dover Clear’ strategy is considered in the transition planning, so that whatever is happening at the Port, local businesses and residents can continue to get about. Our area is no stranger to traffic congestion from time to time. The operational plans will continue to adapt over the coming weeks and months, as they have in the past, so that the right balance between the needs of the port and residents can be struck.
I am committed to the economic success of our area. The continuing success of the Port will create further jobs, new businesses and investment. Recently negotiated new trade deals with countries such as Egypt and Morocco have opened new trade routes that could see goods go straight to and out of Dover and bypass Europe altogether.
This is a period of change, but also a period of great opportunity. I’ll be working hard to seize that opportunity and to do everything I can to support our area to grow, prosper and thrive in the years ahead.