I have warned the Government to step up digital border preparations – or risk Kent traffic chaos and economic damage to the UK next year.
Brexit has been a massive success. The Port of Dover, which accounts for a third of the UK’s trade with the EU, is thriving and trade has continued to run smoothly.
But last week I told fellow MPs in Parliament that this success is now at risk – unless the Government acts urgently to prepare for the EU’s new digital border system (the Entry-Exit System or EES) which is slated to go live next year. The Government must focus on implementing the digital borders system.
I said in the debate:
“The port of Dover is the most successful port of its kind in the UK. More than £144 billion-worth of freight is transported through the port each year. It accounts for a third of all UK trade with the EU, supporting thousands of local jobs in Dover and Deal and hundreds of thousands of jobs across the UK.
“The port of Dover is a national asset that has a huge role to play in post- Brexit global Britain. What Dover and the short straits do simply cannot be replicated elsewhere. That success has been built on trade running smoothly. That success has continued post-Brexit.”
“We need to see that success continue with necessary decisions and investment, including upgrading the A2 and planning for the EU’s new digital borders system when it becomes operational next year. With the clock ticking, it is now urgent that the Government sharpen their focus on implementing the new digital borders system seamlessly in a juxtaposed context. Otherwise, they risk big delays at the port, travel chaos in Kent and real damage to the British economy.”
The Home Office Borders Minister, Kevin Foster MP, responded to me in the debate, confirming that there was a risk of delays as I had outlined. However, he committed to working with the French to minimise any such delays, including looking at new approaches to border management.
The Minister said:
“We recognise the port of Dover’s role as a key entry and exit point to and from the UK for a wide variety of time-sensitive goods, as well as passengers. Prior to the pandemic in 2019, it handled 1.2 million roll-on-roll-off units—more than all other ports serving mainland EU routes combined. It is also the UK’s largest international sea passenger port, handling nearly 11 million passengers in 2019. We are therefore fully committed to protecting this vital link, and that will be a key priority in our approach to assisting our partners in an effective implementation of the EES.”
Mr Foster congratulated me on securing the debate saying:
“I again thank my hon. Friend the Member for Dover for securing the debate, and I join her in congratulating and thanking the port of Dover for the outstanding contribution to the economy that it facilitates through seamless daily trade with our European partners… As the UK’s busiest roll-on-roll-off port, Dover is a recognised pressure point at the frontier and maintaining flow is a priority for UK customs planning, without compromising border security.”