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Cross-Channel trade 'could collapse by up to 87% in the wake of no-deal Brexit', warns government

3 min read

Up to 87% of cross-Channel freight trade could be stopped in the event of a no-deal Brexit, a government analysis has concluded.

A leaked report from UK Border Force has warned that at least three-quarters of trade between Dover and Calais could grind to a halt for up to six months should the UK leave the EU without a Brexit agreement in place.

The document, which was obtained by Sky News, suggests that agrifood products, which account for between 9 and 15% of all trade, would be forced to re-route to UK ports with shipping links or to other EU 27 member states with sufficient inspection facilities, such as at Rotterdam or Zeebrugge.

The report, which is believed to have been prepared for ministers in November, says: “The French will apply at least the legal minimum of third-country customs controls on all goods and sanitary and phytosanitary checks on specified food and agriculture products. This includes the imposition of 100 per cent customs documentation checks.

“The reasonable worst case is that flow through the Short Straits is reduced to between 13 per cent and 25 per cent of current capacity for a period of between three and six months.”

“Even after an initial shock, Border Force assumes that a 'new normal' for cross-Channel freight will be 50-100% of current flows lasting until significant changes are made to improve border arrangements such as automation."

The document also adds that a significant proportion of UK traders would not be prepared for the new arrangements on day one of no-deal.

Responding to the leak, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: "The Tories continue to treat the public with complete contempt by concealing the real impact that a no-deal Brexit would have on our borders and trade.

"It appears that these leaked documents only scratch the surface of what Britain could be facing. Who knows what other catastrophic assessments the government is hiding from us?

"This is why Labour has consistently demanded that the UK is protected from a No Deal scenario, and why our leader Jeremy Corbyn has tabled an amendment to ensure just that. A government that would knowingly put its citizens in this situation has no business running a country."

Labour MP Jo Stevens, of the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, meanwhile said: “With every passing day the reality of a no-deal Brexit becomes ever clearer.

“The freight referred to in this slide is the essentials; medicines food and goods that keep the country going. It’s no surprise the Government didn’t release this information in its public no-deal guidance.

“In refusing to take no-deal off the table, the Prime Minister is gambling the country’s supply of essential food and medicines in a desperate attempt to rescue her botched deal.

“The time for the Prime Minister to do the right thing is long overdue. She must take no-deal off the table and give the public a chance to have its own say.”

The news comes as the Confederation of British Industry warned that the North-east of England would be disproportionately impacted by no-deal Brexit, with up to £7bn worth of economic output wiped out by the mid-2030s.

Josh Hardie, the deputy director general of the CBI, said: “The projected impact on the UK economy would be devastating and while business will do all it can to reduce some of the worst aspects, a no-deal scenario is unmanageable.”

The Department of Transport was contacted for comment.

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