Under severe pressure! Brexit customs system tech fault worsens Channel crossing chaos

Keir Starmer questioned over his silence on failures of Brexit

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A 23-mile coastbound stretch of the M20 in Kent was closed for four junctions between Maidstone and Westenhanger as part of Operation Brock. Operation Brock involves using a moveable barrier in order to create a contraflow system which enables lorries to queue and other traffic to keep moving in both directions.

The move, which affected those heading for the Port of Dover or the Eurotunnel, reportedly caused chaos on surrounding local roads in the area.

The Independent has reported the A20 Roundhill Tunnel is closed under the Dover TAP scheme to prevent HGVs from jumping the queue.

Speaking about the issues at hand, the Road Haulage Association said HMRC is “continuing to have issues” with its new post-Brexit GVMS system for customs declarations.

The system had been introduced to help lorries move goods between Britain and the European Union after the transition period between the UK and Brussels bloc ended last year.

According to the Independent, the system even enables drivers to scan barcodes in order to complete rapid checks on lorries at ports, including at Dover.

However, a spokesperson from HMRC said: “We have put in place contingency processes to ensure businesses can keep goods and freight moving while we return to full service.”

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A message on the HMRC site added: “We are undertaking robust investigations into our systems to address the underlying issues behind this outage.

“We will provide a further update by midday, Monday 11 April.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.”

However, delays near Dover have also resulted from a number of factors.

Some delays to Channel crossings resulted from the suspension of P&O Ferries after the operator sacked nearly 800 seafarers without notice.

DFDS, a competitor company, had been taking in many customers but has now said it no longer has the capacity to deal with ex-P&O travellers.

However, P&O Ferries announced on Wednesday it was preparing to bring back cross-Channel trips.

A spokesman said: “P&O is looking forward to welcoming back vital services and we expect to have two of our vessels ready to sail on the Dover-Calais route by next week, subject to regulatory sign-off, namely both the Pride of Kent and Spirit of Britain between Dover-Calais.”

Trevor Bartlett, council leader in the Brexit-backing town of Dover, said the port would be “under severe pressure throughout the busy Easter getaway”. 

He also warned residents to prepare for “some disruption again this weekend”.

The Tory Councillor added: “For too long, local residents and businesses have had to endure disruption and, quite frankly, deserve better.

“We share your concerns about the impact of gridlock on local businesses and access to vital health and social care for our most vulnerable residents.

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“Many are rightly worried about how the emergency services would be able to respond to a major incident when all routes into the town are effectively cut off.”

Ashford MP Damian Green, who voted to keep the UK in the EU back in 2016, called for changes to be made to Operation Brock to make the system work.

He told KentOnline: “What we need is to make Brock work.

“We have established that up until now it does work, even in times of stress, because the motorway is kept open.

“Once you close the motorway it makes it impossible, so the Kent Resilience Forum needs to look at what changes need to happen so Brock can cope with what is a very unusual situation, where more than half of the freight-carrying capacity at Dover has disappeared in one time.”

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