Christmas rush and Brexit uncertainty fuel miles-long lorry queues

Michael Drummond, PA South East Correspondent
·2-min read

Christmas stockpiling and Brexit uncertainty have again caused huge queues of lorries to stack up in Kent.

A long line of HGVs stretched up to five miles on the M20 as freight drivers headed for the Eurotunnel.

The latest delays came as the UK marked less than two weeks until 2021 and the end of the Brexit transition period.

Businesses, in a bid to avoid cross-Channel disruption in January, are stockpiling goods before the new year, in addition to the usual Christmas rush.

On Saturday morning the queue along the left-hand lane of the motorway started in the Ashford area and stretched several miles to the Eurotunnel entrance at Folkestone.

There were also long lines of HGVs along the M20 between Capel-le-Ferne – the site of the Battle of Britain memorial on the White Cliffs – to the port of Dover.

A deal has yet to be struck between the UK and the EU, which has led to uncertainty among traders and fears that as many as 60% of Kent businesses are not prepared for a no-deal Brexit.

Lorries without the proper paperwork could be turned away from the border from January 1.

Lorries queue on the A20
Lorries queue on the A20 (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Lorry driver queues
The White Cliffs are reflected in the windscreen of a lorry whilst the driver sits his cab and queues (Gareth Fuller/PA)

A report published on Saturday warned that businesses are being “held back” by the continued lack of a trade deal with the EU.

The document, published by the House of Commons Committee on the Future
Relationship with the European Union, said: “While we welcome the Government’s attempts to communicate to businesses the changes that will take place on 1 January, results appear patchy at best.

“Little time now remains and, in making their preparations, businesses continue to be held back by restrictions imposed to control the spread of Covid-19, a lack of detailed guidance and continued uncertainty over the final terms of the UK-EU future relationship.”

But Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister told the PA news agency on Friday that he was confident Dover would be able to handle any uncertainty.

He said: “Dover has a proven track record to handle disruption in a good, successful way, and we are able to manage the disruption and importantly recover the position very swiftly indeed.”

Mr Bannister added that increased freight ahead of December 31 means the first weeks of 2021 could be calmer.