Delays at ports caused by extensive customs checks could lead to the almost-permanent introduction of Operation Stack to park lorries on the M20 if trade is not "frictionless," according to a report by economic consultancy Oxera.
The congestion caused by implementing Operation Stack repeatedly over just four days in 2015 cost an estimated £1bn according to a report by Conservative MPs, Oxera noted, as it flagged up the risks of the Government not achieving the "as frictionless as possible" transport of goods in the negotiations with the EU over exiting the Union. But despite the summer 2015 disruption in Calais causing the repeated implementation of Operation Stack, "it will be 2018 at least before a lorry park designed as an alternative to using the M20 motorway for parking can open," risking tailbacks in Kent.
Oxera said that even in a best-case deal with the EU over Brexit, where enforcement is only required on a random-checks basis, the economic impact would be at least £1bn per year, not taking into account the cost of any additional congestion. But if there were to be high-regulation of goods and high-enforcement of these regulations at the border, this would result in what the Port of Dover referred to as "armageddon," which Oxera said could "potentially lead to an almost-permanent instigation of Operation Stack - with extensive queues on the M20 and surrounding roads in Kent". Oxera notes that the 3% of goods entering from outside the EU at the port are subject to checks that take 45 minutes on average.
But Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, commenting on the report, told The Observer that "with digital borders, customs clearance can be managed incredibly quickly... in Singapore, clearance takes less than a minute".
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