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Hauliers dispute Brexit 'no disruption' claim from French channel ports chief

Dover port

By PA Reporters

Hauliers have struck back at suggestions from the head of the French Channel ports that the trade route between Dover and Calais will continue to run smoothly after Brexit.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA), which represents the UK industry, said it is "clear" that British authorities are not "Brexit-ready" and warned of an "information abyss".

France's Jean-Marc Puissesseau had accused "certain individuals" of scaremongering with talk of transport chaos and said authorities were ready for Britain's scheduled departure from the EU on October 31.

"Nothing is going to happen the day after Brexit," he told the Daily Telegraph.

"Britain will be a third country, that's all, and there is no reason why this should lead to any problems.

"If both sides do their homework, traffic will be completely fluid."

But RHA chief executive Richard Burnett hit back at suggestions that the UK is "Brexit-ready" and called for the Government to deliver "desperately needed" clarity for lorries crossing the Channel.

"From the meetings we have had it is clear that they are not (ready)," he said.

"Since day one we have been pressing Government for clarity as regards future border crossing procedures and we have conveyed our concerns about the future to Monsieur Puissesseau on many occasions.

"If everybody turns up in Calais with the right documents there will be no problems, but today, with only 80 days until we leave the EU, we still cannot establish what is needed and what qualifies as 'lorry ready'. It's an information abyss."

He said that if "decisive, clear action" is implemented and distributed immediately there is "every chance" of keeping disruption to a minimum.

"But until we get the clarity that is so desperately needed, optimism is in very short supply."

Mr Puissesseau admitted that a no-deal Brexit in March would have been a "huge problem", but said they had now had an extra seven months to prepare.

Last month, Irish premier Leo Varadkar said delays were likely at ports following a no-deal Brexit, while former chancellor Philip Hammond warned that the French would be able to "dial up" or "dial down" at will the queues for goods going into the port of Calais.

Hauliers have also expressed concerns that lorry drivers in Dover could face sitting in two-day queues without food or toilets if the UK crashes out of the EU.

The Government announced a £2.1 billion funding boost for no-deal Brexit preparations earlier this month, which included money for improvements to infrastructure at ports.

It also meant extra cash for the contingency plan to deal with disruption on the M20 leading to Dover, named Operation Brock.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said the Government is taking "necessary steps" to make sure goods carry on flowing.