Huge lorry queues building up at the Port of Dover have been blamed “entirely” on extra controls which have come into force from Brexit.
It comes as port chiefs urged the UK government to hold talks with the EU on ways to ease further checks set to come in later in 2022 which could cause “disastrous” disruption to trade.
One courier told The Independent he had been caught up in queues of up to 15km since full customs controls came into force at beginning of January.
The British haulier said it was taking 15 to 20 minutes for each driver to clear checks needed for the UK government’s new Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) system and other export paperwork at Dover.
“It’s entirely Brexit – you can’t blame it on anything else but Brexit,” said the driver, who has had to push back some deliveries.
The haulier added: “People will get to grips with GVMS and the new paperwork in the weeks ahead. But even if they don’t take as long, checks still take time. So the queues are bound to get worse when traffic flows pick up next month.”
Recent disruption has been even more significant around the French port of Calais since new customs controls were introduced on goods imported into the UK at the start of January.
Lorry drivers have reported queueing for up to eight hours to get through controls, partly because UK firms have struggled with complex new customs declarations and rules-of-origin forms.
But the GVMS system is also creating longer checks for lorries heading to the EU at Dover. There was a queue of 7km leading up to Dover port on Friday morning, according to the Sixfold traffic tracker used by the logistics industry which has record “high than usual” build-up this week.
The congestion at Dover in recent days has seen the Operation TAP temporary traffic system being implemented – with all vehicles restricted to 40mph and lorries asked queue in one lane until there is space.
A cross-party group of MPs on the transport select committee visited Dover earlier this week to hear the concerns of port chiefs and assess overflow space.
Labour MP Ruth Cadbury, a member of the committee, told The Independent: “There are clearly issues with congestion at Dover. There is no doubt the regulatory changes from Brexit are causing delays.”
She echoed a call from the British Chambers of Commerce for the government to streamline some of the new red tape required. “The government has an opportunity to smooth things out,” she said.
Doug Bannister, chief executive at Port of Dover, has called on the government to start urgent talks with EU authorities over the biometric checks set to come into force in September.
The port chief said the new checks on non-EU citizens – which could involve body or facial scanning similar to those seen at airports – may involve car drivers being asked to step out of their vehicle.
“If it is forcing people to get out of their vehicles inside of a busy port, that is just unsafe. We couldn’t allow that to happen. That will lead to increased queues, no doubt.”
Logistics UK warned at the end of last year that the new biometric checks to travel into the EU could lead to 27km (17 miles) tailbacks.
Transport select committee chair Huw Merriman said the potential for significant traffic delays could be a “disaster” for trade if it were to impact on supply chains.
“That per-vehicle movement will end up causing a 17-mile delay back into Kent and that would be a disaster for the local economy and a disaster for trade as well,” said the Tory MP.
A spokesperson the Home Office said: “The UK is continuing to engage with our European partners at an operational level and, in particular, where we operate juxtaposed controls, to ensure our respective border arrangements work and interact as well as possible.”
Meanwhile, the head of Dublin Port said the route through Dover that once offered Irish traders the fastest means of getting between the Republic of Ireland and the European continent will not “re-emerge” as a preferred option for moving goods.
“I don’t see [the route] recovering,” Dublin Port chief executive Eamonn O’Reilly told the Irish Times.