Unite is predicting “confusion and chaos” at UK ports after Brexit unless the government acts now to minimise disruption.
UK ports will face “chaos and confusion” in the new year unless post-Brexit lorry parks are completed, Unite the Union has warned today.
Unite has also said that new online border checks that are set to be implemented following the UK’s exit from the EU will also lead to delays at ports.
The government has denied Unite’s claims that most of the planned lorry parks will not be completed in time for when the UK’s transition phase with the EU comes to an end on 31 December 2020. The Cabinet Office also said that £705m is being spent to prepare the UK border ahead of the new year deadline, with the government giving itself new powers to quickly grant planning permission for temporary lorry parks and inspection posts without requiring local approval.
Areas affected under the new powers include Devon, East Sussex, Lincolnshire, Liverpool and Cheshire.
However, Unite’s warning comes amid fears that incomplete IT systems and the “eleventh hour” plans to build emergency lorry parks mean ports across the country will simply not be prepared in time.
Computerised post-Brexit customs systems are still being developed, with drivers and unions fearing that the complicated software will not be ready by 31 December – particularly in light of the repeated delays to the government’s coronavirus contact tracing app.
Computerised post-Brexit customs systems are still under development, with drivers, unions and industry fearing that the complex software will not be ready by the time the UK’s transition phase with the EU ends on 31 December 2020, particularly in light of repeated delays to the government’s coronavirus contract tracing app.
Unite said that it is “completely unacceptable” that lorry drivers, who are not responsible for the preparation of customs declarations, face being held personally liable if they are found to be travelling without the correct electronic documentation and could be subject to fines of £300.
The union has urged the government to meet and consult with HGV drivers and to act on “their very real concerns”.
Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “HGV drivers know that the government’s as yet incomplete post-Brexit customs system and the eleventh-hour preparations for lorry parks needed to handle expected border delays will result in chaos and confusion.
“This government’s record on delivering computerised systems is beyond a joke so it’s no wonder that our members are concerned that the system will not only be a last-minute fix but may not even be fit for purpose.
“With less than four months to go, the locations of the vast majority of the lorry parks have still not been announced, let alone built. Local authorities across the country are in the dark and warning about the potential impact on traffic flow and local business and services – concerns which are shared by our members…
“…On the current trajectory, we could see the country’s major trading points slow to crawl; causing gridlock, damaging the economy and inflicting misery and stress on lorry drivers and local communities alike.
“As a priority, our members need government guarantees that they will not be left stranded with inadequate facilities on giant lorry parks or be unfairly fined for documentation issues that are out of their hands. We urge the government to meet with our members, who keep this country’s shelves filled and factories stocked, and act on the very real concerns they have.
“With just weeks to go before the end of the transition period the government must provide clarity and work with local authorities, industry and trade unions to minimise disruption.”