EXCL Former Cabinet minister Michael Fallon condemns Chris Grayling over M26 no-deal Brexit closure
A former Cabinet minister has hit out at Chris Grayling after the Government quietly closed a major motorway as part of its no-deal Brexit planning.
Kent Tory MP Michael Fallon said it was “deeply disappointing and wholly unacceptable” that the Government had secretly authorised nightly closures of the M26 to look at extending it into a massive lorry park.
The motorway is set to be used as a holding area for lorries if delays build at Calais and Dover under a no-deal Brexit, and will be closed nightly until the 15 October and again for a month from 19 November to allow preparatory work to be carried out.
Mr Grayling was attacked by Conservative Tom Tugendhat in the Commons yesterday, after the Tonbridge and Malling MP discovered the work had begun despite assurances none had been planned.
Sevenoaks MP Sir Michael has now written to Mr Grayling urging him to "reconsider these plans and meet me at the earliest opportunity to find an alternative solution".
In the letter, seen by PoliticsHome, the former Defence Secretary said: "As you will be aware, much of the M26 lies in my constituency. It is therefore deeply disappointing and wholly unacceptable to hear of plans to close it...
"Whilst I appreciate the need for contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit, any measures must take into consideration the views of MPs and residents before they are implemented.
"I would urge you in the strongest possible terms to reconsider these plans, and meet at the earliest opportunity to find an alternative solution."
In a statement, Mr Fallon added: "“It is wholly unacceptable that residents were not consulted on these proposals, which will have severe pollution and noise consequences for my constituents’ evening travel and access for local businesses."
Speaking at Transport Questions in the Commons yesterday, Mr Tugendhat said: “Will the Speaker agree with me that’s it’s come to a pretty pass when a member finds out that works have begun on a motorway to turn that motorway into a parking lot without consultation either with the local community or indeed with surrounding members?”
He added: “The M26 works started last night. I wrote to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in April asking whether or not this would happen.
“I was assured that works were not planned. And only yesterday was it confirmed to me that Highways England had said that that is exactly what is planned despite having told me the reverse only a week earlier.”
Mr Grayling said he was “very happy” to meet the Tory backbencher to “discuss” concerns about the Kent constituency.
But he insisted: “I have to say that I do not expect any of the contingencies that we have in place for a no-deal Brexit to be needed.”
Experts have warned that such a scenario would require a string of new checks at the UK border and could lead to major disruption for goods crossing the Channel.