Lorries queue 20 miles at Kent as no-deal Brexit fears spark more stockpiling

Twenty-mile long queues of lorries caused major delays across Kent as the Brexit stockpiling headache persists.

Fears of no-deal Brexit have bulked out the Christmas freight traffic, which sparked gridlock yet again today.

Coastbound traffic slowed to a halt as lorries queued for the Eurotunnel and the docks at Dover.

Reports said the trucks laden with Christmas gifts and food on either side of the Channel were struggling to make deliveries.

Non-freight traffic was diverted and ferries between Dover and Calais also faced delays of hours today due to congestion.

Highways England urged motorists to detour due to the heavy congestion on the M20, A20 and A2 around the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel.

Delays on both the English and French sides have led to fears Christmas presents may not arrive in time.

The Dover TAP measure – short for Traffic Assessment Project – had to be activated again this week in a bid to regulate the jams.

The measure is designed to control traffic flows during busy periods at the crucial port, with rules including reduced speed restrictions.

Long queues of lorries on Kent’s roads have become a familiar sight as businesses stockpile goods ahead of December 31.

Britain has so far failed to reach a divorce deal just weeks from the key deadline.

Boris Johnson yesterday warned a no-deal Brexit was looking more likely following talks to reach a trade deal with the EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen.

The PM warned the EU must concede its position to avoid the clock ticking down to the end of the Brexit transition period without agreement.

Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister warned there is “significant uncertainty” around how prepared companies are for a no-deal Brexit.

He said: “We are a fortnight away from this momentous transition and so everything is going to come right down to the wire.

“We are going through a really busy period of time right now with the Brexit stockpiling, the diversion of cargo from other ports coming in through our gateway, it is a really important period of time.

“Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been seeing increases of typically between 20 and 25% over this time last year – but we have topped up some bigger numbers, yesterday we approached nearly 40%.”

With the busy Channel port processing about 10,000 lorries every 24 hours, such increases equate to thousands of vehicles.

The M20 in Kent has seen long queues of lorries heading to the border, with tailbacks stretching many miles.

Much of the spike in traffic stems from businesses getting in goods before Christmas, as well as Brexit stockpiling.

This increased volume ahead of December 31 may mean that the first weeks of 2021 may be calmer, Mr Bannister said.

“My hope is it allows traders and the hauliers and everyone to become accustomed with the new processes, so that when the volume begins to return again later in the month and into February, that we’ll have a higher proportion of people that can operate in this post-transition period environment.”

Lorries without the proper paperwork could face being turned away from the border from January 1.

However, Mr Bannister said he is confident that Dover will be able to handle any uncertainty.