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UK Govt legislates to fast-track Gib-bound food shipments

Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The UK Government has published legislation that will allow up to 10 trucks carrying groceries from the UK to Gibraltar to be fast-tracked daily through any congestion on Kent roads leading to Channel ports or the Eurotunnel.

The legislation – the Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 3) (Amendment) Order 2021 - allows Gibraltar-bound groceries to be added as a new category under the UK Government’s pre-existing “prioritised goods” contingency scheme, allowing eligible vehicles to be expedited through the Kent traffic management system.

Congestion in Kent arising from Covid-19 restrictions in the UK and the EU, coupled to new procedures following Brexit, had been among the key factors disrupting supply chains to Gibraltar, particularly for UK-based supermarket Morrisons.

A consultation conducted by the UK’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) prior to the legislation being published identified that the Rock relied on UK supply chains for up to 50% of its food.

It acknowledged too the risk that, as in the UK, “small but visible” changes in food availability could potentially trigger “disproportionate consumer behaviour, including panic buying…”

The legislation allows UK ministers to issue “priority goods” permits to vehicles carrying single grocery loads to be transported to a final destination in Gibraltar.

An explanatory memorandum attached to the order says these are “emergency measures” only to be used “in extremis and for the shortest time possible” where significant border delays exist and food supply flow is reduced.

The UK identified “trigger points” for implementation of the measures, including congestion on the approach to Dover and Eurotunnel of eight hours or more, and actual loads delivered to UK supermarkets falling below 75% of planned expectations for two consecutive days.

Gibraltar is only a small part of the focus of the measures, which aim above all to bolster the supply chain for UK supermarkets.

The UK Government’s policy is that the scheme will be open to the major retailers that supply around 95% of the UK food market, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi, Co-op, Lidl, Waitrose, and M&S and their logistics partners.

“Similarly, with regard to Gibraltar-bound groceries the Prioritised Goods Scheme will be open to Gibraltar’s largest supermarket, Morrisons, and its logistics partners,” the memorandum adds.

Permits will be allocated in proportion to the retailer’s current market share of the UK food retail sector and will not exceed a total of 300 per day.

The UK Government estimates that up to 10 permits per day will be for Gibraltar-bound HCVs under the Prioritised Goods contingency plan.

The consultation conducted by Defra showed that two thirds of respondents agreed, at least in principle, with the proposal to introduce Gibraltar-bound groceries as a new category of priority goods under the Prioritised Goods Scheme.

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