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Brexit lorry traffic controls to be made permanent

A view of lorries queuing on the M20 motorway for Eurotunnel in Folkestone, Kent, as the government develops the 27-acre site near Ashford into a post-Brexit lorry park as it gears up to leave the EU at the end of the year. Pic by Gareth Fuller

By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent

Lorry traffic controls designed to prevent post-Brexit disruption around the Port of Dover are to have their “sunset clauses” removed, allowing the emergency measures to be used indefinitely.

It means that the implementation of a traffic reconfiguration to the M20 will be able to continue past its current October 31 deadline once changes have been made to the law after MPs return from their summer break.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the alteration, which comes after a consultation, would allow Operation Brock to be used to respond to “any type of traffic disruption in the area” and not only that related to Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Traffic management measures were introduced in Kent amid fears that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU could lead to disruption for cross-Channel trade.

Kent Access Permits – where lorry drivers had to secure a permit before entering the south east England county – and Operation Brock were part of the domestic mitigations rolled out.

Operation Brock consists of a series of concrete barriers, allowing lorries to be held on one side of the M20 to access the Port of Dover, while other traffic continues to flow in both directions via a restricted narrow lane contraflow system on the other side of the road.

A moveable barrier – which the DfT announced in April would be dismantled and stored on the hard shoulder in case required in future – was installed between Junctions 8 and 9 on the motorway for the operation’s contraflow system.

Legislation for Operation Brock legislation was first put in place in 2019 in preparation for a potential no-deal divorce from Brussels, updated in 2020 before the end of the transition period, and again in 2021 in response to the French border being closed due to fears over the UK-originated Alpha coronavirus variant – known formerly as the Kent mutation.

Ministers undertook a consultation in May and June to seek views on proposals to “bring Operation Brock within a sustainable long-term traffic management plan”, which would involve removing the existing sunset clauses that would otherwise have meant the legislation would have expired by November.

The consultation terms said that making the change would mean Operation Brock could continue to be used “in the future as a contingency traffic management measure for disruption” – a move the department said had elicited a “positive” response.

As a result, statutory instruments – legal alterations that do not require new laws to be introduced – stripping the law of its sunset clauses will be laid before Parliament next month and will be debated in both the Commons and the Lords, officials said.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Operation Brock measures will remain temporary and will only be used when there is a significant risk of delays.

“While Operation Brock was originally created to deal with disruption caused by EU exit and in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, removing the sunset clauses from Operation Brock will mean the Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) is better prepared to respond to any type of traffic disruption in the area, not solely related to EU exit, including strikes and severe weather.”

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