Commenting on the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove’s comments to the House of Commons today (Wednesday 23 September) on the UK’s preparations for the end of the EU transition period on 31 December, Unite national officer Adrian Jones said:

“I welcome the government’s publication of its reasonable worst-case scenario, which Unite called for last week. However, the publication of the document and Mr Gove’s speech to MPs today, will not have provided any reassurance for Unite’s HGV driver members, industry or the communities who stand to be impacted by looming traffic and trade chaos at our borders. 

“Mr Gove appeared to be warning cross-border traders and hauliers that it would be their fault if the scenarios contained within the government’s Brexit document, including queues of up to 7,000 lorries in Kent, come to fruition. 

“The fact that there will be a de-facto internal border in Kent for lorry drivers, enforced by the police, is another sign that government is planning to avoid responsibility for its own mismanagement. It is outrageous that drivers, who are not required to prepare customs documentation, will be liable for fines because their employers got the paperwork wrong or the government’s preparations are full of holes. 

“It is of course incumbent on businesses to ready themselves, but part of that preparation is familiarity with the complex new IT systems and border arrangements that, given the government’s dire record on software development, may not even be fit for purpose by the New Year. 

“It is worrying that Mr Gove could not give a straight answer on when the digital Smart Freight system will be ready for launch, especially given the warnings from logistics operators that a test version isn’t expected until December. Nor did Mr Gove provide any substantial detail on the 29, as yet mostly unbuilt, Brexit lorry parks. 

“As a matter of urgency, the government must provide a detailed update on how far along its IT customs systems are, including identifying which private contractors are involved with designing them, publish the specific locations of the lorry parks and properly engage on this issue with unions, industry, local government and communities.

“The end of the transition period is rapidly approaching, and the country cannot afford another repeat of Mr Gove’s evasive answers and blame-shifting. Unless there is significant change of direction from ministers, Unite’s HGV driver members face being stranded for days, more than likely without clean toilets, showers or decent food, with the knock-on consequences causing gridlock and doing untold damage to the economy.”


Unite calls for leaked document on post-Brexit chaos in Kent to be released

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Email: [email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.