Brexit Secretary admits he did not realise the Dover-Calais trade route was important

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
B rexit Secretary Dominic Raab said he did not realise how important the trade route between Dover and Calais is (Getty)

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has been criticised by Remainers after admitting he did not realise the importance of the trade route between Dover and Calais.

A customs border would come into place in the event of a no-deal Brexit, meaning customs controls, increased costs and delays for businesses would be more likely.

A House of Commons briefing paper on a no-deal Brexit estimated that the resultant delays could cause a 17-mile queue at the port of Dover.

Speaking at a tech conference, Mr Raab said he ‘had not quite understood the full extent of this’.

He told delegates: ‘If you look at the UK and look at how we trade in goods, we are particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing.

‘And that is one of the reasons why we have wanted to make sure we have a specific and very proximate relationship with the EU, to ensure frictionless trade at the border.’

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Mr Raab said that he did not believe there would be a risk of major shortages, but added: ‘I think probably the average consumer might not be aware of the full extent to which the choice of goods that we have in the stores are dependent on one or two very specific trade routes.’

Remainers were quick to jump on Mr Raab’s comments, with Alistair Campbell – who is arguing for a ‘People’s Vote’ on Brexit, describing them as ‘mindblowing’.

Others were quick to wade in:

Last month it was reported that the Government is considering a plan to buy its own fleet of ferries to bring vital food and medicines to Britain to stop the country running out in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Theresa May revealed the ‘bombshell’ plans to stunned ministers in a cabinet meeting to update senior MPs on the progress of Brexit negotiations and no-deal contingency planning.

During the meeting Transport Secretary Chris Grayling warned that deliveries coming into the UK via Dover and the Channel Tunnel could drop by 95% if France reintroduces customs checks after Britain leaves the EU.

Mr Raab said the UK is particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing (Getty)

Work also started last month to turn one of Britain’s motorways into a giant car park to deal with gridlock caused by a no-deal Brexit.

The M26 in Kent will be closed overnight for weeks leading up to Christmas as part of preparations for it to be used as a holding area for lorries if there is gridlock leading up to Dover.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is under intense pressure to publish the legal advice behind her Brexit plan as Labour, Tory Eurosceptics and the Democratic Unionist Party line up against her.

Theresa May is under pressure to publish the legal advice behind her Brexit plan (Getty)

Brexiteers, including Environment Secretary Michael Gove, want to see the full legal advice setting out how any customs arrangement to avoid a hard Irish border could be ended to avoid it becoming a permanent settlement.

Pressure over the legal advice mounted as Cabinet ministers were invited to review the text of the withdrawal agreement which has so far been secured in negotiations with Brussels.

Remainers criticised the Brexit Secretary’s comments (Getty)

Mrs May told MPs last month that 95% of the deal had been agreed, although the key sticking point of the backstop to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remained unresolved.

Her plan would see the whole UK effectively agree to remain in the customs union to help avoid a hard border with Ireland as a “backstop” if no other arrangement can be found.

A Downing Street source said: ‘That is just where we are so far. It does not imply that a deal has been done.’

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