Ministers hire dozens of lorries for chaotic no-deal Brexit test run
The Government will hire dozens of massive lorries next week to test-drive its plans for a chaotic no-deal Brexit, it has been revealed.
Ministers will fill Manston airfield in Kent with up to 150 HGVs on Monday to rehearse emergency plans in case major delays at Dover spark a traffic nightmare on the roads.
Under the contingency measures for a no-deal Brexit, Manston will become a “holding facility” for hauliers before they make their way down to the port.
The Government has ramped up its preparations for a no-deal departure as pro-Brexit Tory MPs and the DUP vowed to reject the deal Theresa May clinched with Brussels.
If the UK quits the bloc without an agreement in place it will be forced to do business across the Channel on World Trade Organisation terms - meaning an increase in border checks.
Ministers are expected to pay tens of thousands of pounds to hire more than 100 lorries and are working with Kent Council, the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association to find participants.
In a letter, the Government said it wanted to ensure “there is an effective plan in place should there be any disruption once the UK has left the EU”.
“To ensure the route from Manston to Dover can safely withstand an increase in HGV traffic, we plan to conduct a live test,” it said.
Two test runs of the 36-mile route are set to go ahead - one during the morning rush hour and another during a “quieter time during the day”.
Labour MP Jo Stevens, speaking on behalf of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain campaign, said: "The Government knows its Brexit deal isn't going to succeed, but the truth is that no deal isn’t either.
"This Government has a real choice to make for our country and we don't have to flirt with a cliff-edge Brexit.
"With Parliament in deadlock, the Government needs to accept that the only way forward for the country right now is to put the decision back in the hands of the people.
"The public have been locked out of the Brexit process since the 2016 vote - it’s time to bring them back in to decide their own future."
Rod McKenzie, a managing director at the Road Haulage Association, warned that businesses were not ready and will not be ready by exit day.
“No-deal contingency plans should be tested but this is all very late in the day and adds more weight to hauliers’ concerns that we’re still not prepared for no-deal Brexit," he told PoliticsHome.
Elsewhere, work started yesterday to dredge Ramsgate port to ensure it can cope with additional ferry crossings to the EU if the flow at Dover locks up.
But ministers were left red-faced after it emerged one firm it had contracted to run extra trips owned no ships and had appeared to copy a legal notice for its website from a fast food company.