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Charlie Elphicke calls for Brexit bill to speed up road building as part of plan to ensure Kent is ready for leaving EU

PUBLISHED: 10:34 21 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:41 21 April 2017

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The MP has warned the 14-hour queues seen at the port last summer would be “a tea party” compared to what will happen if a solid plan is not in place

A Kent MP is calling for a Brexit bill to speed up the building of roads in the county as he today unveils a queue-busting plan to ensure Dover and the Channel Ports are ready for leaving the EU.

Charlie Elphicke’s 50-page report, developed with ports, shipping and haulage businesses, sets out a detailed blueprint to ensure order at the border and has been supported by the likes of Xavier Bertrand, president of the Calais and Dunkirk regional government.

The Dover and Deal MP has previously warned the 14-hour queues seen at the port last summer would be “a tea party” compared to what will happen if a solid plan is not in place post-Brexit.

Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs have also suggested there could regularly be tailbacks all the way to Essex.

In a five-point plan, Mr Elphicke calls on the government to continue to invest in resilient roads to the ports.

With the Lower Thames Crossing announced last week, the MP is also calling for a quick upgrade of the M2/A2, dualled all the way to the ports, and the planned M20 lorry park to be delivered on time.

He also demands systems ready on day one to ensure customs controls are handled seamlessly, an extension of the Le Touquet treaty to cover customs co-operation and a Brexit Infrastructure bill to help speed up administrative processes and enable vital road projects to be delivered quickly.

Mr Elphicke is also calling for a far more streamlined government operation at the border to avoid muddle and confusion.

“This plan highlights the kind of choice people will soon have to make,” he said.

“Conservatives thinking about how we can be ready on day one make a success of Brexit – or Labour and Lib Dems ready to feast on failure hoping things will go wrong.

“Gridlock at Dover will mean gridlock for the UK economy. Yet with proper planning we can not only be ready on day one – we can make Brexit a real success. That’s what this plan is about.

“My priority is for a stronger UK and to make sure that Brexit is a success for Dover, Deal and our villages.

“Together we can build a new Britain that is a great, global trading nation.”

Mr Elphicke and Mr Bertrand have worked closely to ensure the Calais ‘jungle’ was dismantled and have teamed up again for this post-Brexit plan.

“The initiative taken by Charlie Elphicke through the ‘Ready on Day One’ report presents three great merits,” Mr Bertrand said.

“The first is to recall that the challenge of Brexit not only affects the future of Dover, Kent and the UK - but also that of Britain’s immediate neighbours.

“This is especially true of the Irish Republic and the Hauts-de-France region of France whose economy and people will be the first affected in their daily lives.

“The second merit is to see a leading elected official mobilise his expertise for concrete solutions rather than yield to the temptation of the ongoing battle against a popular decision implemented by a democratically elected government.

“The third merit is to focus on the issue of infrastructure.

“We must work together with Dover to make the same choices for investments in new digital tools to boost fluidity, fast lanes, as well as increased monitoring and the fight against terrorism.”

Tony Smith, former head of Border Force, also backs Mr Elphicke’s report.

“I am grateful to Charlie for putting in the time and effort to bring together so many key stakeholders and subject matter experts to produce this report,” he said.

“We need to view the UK border as an asset not a problem. By adopting the recommendations in this report we will be able to say that we truly have a world class border – capable of handling not just the challenges of Brexit but also the increases in volume, risk and complexity that modern day border management demands.”

Richard Christian, head of communications at the Port of Dover, said: “Both the prime minister and the EU’s chief negotiator have made frictionless trade between the UK and the EU an essential outcome from the Brexit negotiations.

“The report is another helpful contribution to the critical issue of efficient trade with our largest and nearest trading partner.

“Fast and efficient pan-European supply chains are key to the nationally critical roles that the Port of Dover, our ferry partners and our partners in France perform on a daily basis.

“The report identifies some potential options to get to our goal of frictionless trade.

“The port particularly welcomes the inclusion of Transit, a passport for goods, that should be considered as part of the solution to the trading success of the UK, Ireland and other European partners.”

One of the key priorities of Mr Elphicke’s report is to keep lorries moving on the roads to and from Dover – so goods can be delivered without gridlock.

The Road Haulage Association said the report “highlights the key issues that need to be addressed when trying to create a post-Brexit frictionless border that is essential for UK and European businesses”.

Alex Veitch, head of global policy at the Freight Transport Association, added: “The report is an important piece of work examining one of the most crucial issues for the success of Brexit.

“We fully agree with conclusions it reaches about what is needed to make trade through ports like Dover work come the day we leave the EU.”

The MP consulted a number of industry experts while working on the report, including freight forwarders from Dover.

Marine operations expert Neil Wiggins, managing director of Independent Vessel Operations Services, said: “Trade is the lifeblood of our nation, friction free borders the arteries which allow it to flow.

“We are going to develop a new relationship with the EU.

“We will need new and improved physical and virtual infrastructure and systems ready for use on day one.

“This report and the recommendations that it makes will, if adopted and implemented, provide a foundation and framework that will support a post-Brexit growth in national prosperity over frictionless borders with our nearest neighbours and trading partners in Europe.”

Jeremy White, expert in international trade and customs and excise law at Pump Court Tax Chambers, added: “This report is an important contribution to the Brexit debate.

“Much has been said and published about trade deals; but very little has addressed the practical concerns of traders.

“The report succeeds in filling the gap with some sensible proposals.”

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