Seeing Red is my regular column in The Isle of Thanet News. This opinion piece was first published on August 20 2019.
As a ‘no deal’ Brexit nightmare looms, Thanet could be badly hit. Regardless of how you voted in 2016, did you vote for chaos, higher bills, job losses and medical shortages?
The reality is clear. Just look at the content of the leaked National Audit office report on Brexit from March this year.
“Delays at the border will mean significant reduction in flow of goods for up to six months. UK citizens will be subject to increased immigration checks at EU border posts. A reduction in choice and availability of certain fresh food supplies. The potential for price increases across utilities, food and fuel”.
According to the report about Operation Yellowhammer, published in The Sunday Times last weekend, the Government are trying downplay the significance of ‘months of meltdown at ports’. The Government’s cavalier strategy for dealing with a no deal Brexit has certainly triggered a significant public debate. Is this more ‘project fear’? Or are the real fears of food, fuel and medicine shortages and the possibility of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/preparation-and-planning-for-emergencies-responsibilities-of-responder-agencies-and-others being implemented, a wake up call for us all? Worse still, we face a recession, depressing UK business and investment, a drop in the value of the pound, and many more job losses. No wonder politicians from all parties agree our current course of action is wrong.
Is this what we wanted?
The fact remains, as the critical October 31st ‘leave’ date looms, we are woefully unprepared. There is no agreed strategy to overcome the current seemingly intractable obstacles. There is certainly no sign of a fresh deal with the EU.
Medical supplies will be “vulnerable to severe extended delays” as three-quarters of the UK’s medicines enter the country via the main Channel crossings.
Ports are likely to experience severe backlogs and delays. Dover in particular is a worry due to the volume of traffic passing through. It is the largest port in the UK and handles one sixth of the UK’s imports. In 2017 around 2.6 million freight vehicles passed through Dover.
On any day Dover handles around 10,500 lorries with the Channel Tunnel receiving a further 6,000 lorries daily.
The road haulage association have thoroughly explained that any delays to freight cost money any additional cost is ‘business critical’. They explain that much of our manufacturing base operates on a ‘just in time’ basis, requiring speedy deliveries, and that fresh food and medicines spoil all too easily.
With delays and subsequent losses incurred by business, the risk to employment is high. Just as jobs in road haulage are vulnerable, jobs in the supply chain are also at risk. We will all suffer from these delays and no doubt, as consumers, we will bear the additional cost. As the leaked report makes clear, there will be many months of delays with costly implications.
Also worryingly, defence chiefs say 3,500 troops are ready and a Government bunker at Whitehall has been prepared in case of civil unrest.
Manston has been ‘requisitioned’ to play its part in managing traffic. The plan to use the defunct airport as the world’s largest truck park is far from sensible. As a Kent County Councillor, I’ve been briefed that upwards of 7,500 lorries could be held for 72 hours. I’ve challenged this. I’ve expressed my fear that Thanet could easily become gridlocked. The only trial was underwhelming. Operation Brock remains untested. Thanet could end up being cut off, ambulances may well struggle, access to health services, homes, work and education could deteriorate.
I questioned Cllr Paul Carter, leader of KCC, if their was any chance of Manston becoming an inland customs point. I was told no. I intend to raise this question again at the next full council meeting.
But what about our local MP?
What disappoints me and what makes me see red is our own MP could and should be fighting our corner. Instead Craig Mackinlay has been reported as being instrumental in an undercover diplomatic initiative, prior to the first deadline of March 29 seeking, to block any extension to Brexit, despite all the evidence that it will be a disaster and that we simply weren’t ready. https://www.politico.eu/newsletter/london-playbook/politico-london-playbook-letter-to-the-president-emergency-pizza-session-patriotism-update/. What we need now are cool heads fighting for an extension to Article 50 because, whether we like it or not, the U.K. is not ready for a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Preparations have already cost billions. That money could be used in much better ways.
This is why I agree with the idea of a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s government followed by a Jeremy Corbyn led time limited temporary administration, to steer us through to a general election. The situation we find ourselves in is the worst crisis we have faced for an extremely long time. People must be given the full facts and the Brexit question must come back to the people. No one was asked to vote on what’s been described as a ‘fait accompli’ of a ‘no deal’ Brexit now being imposed on the UK.
Let’s cut through the complexities. We all have the facts, let’s do the sensible thing and vote again. Like buying a house or a car. It might look fine on the outside, but once the survey is done or the engine is tested the picture changes. Once you know it’s not what it first seems to be you have the option to change your mind – don’t you?
This article was first published on 20th August 2019 in The Isle of Thanet News.