RHA challenges claims Port of Calais is Brexit-ready

The Road Haulage Association for the UK has challenged claims by the President of the Port of Calais, Jean-Marc Puissesseau, on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning (January 9) that the Port of Calais is Brexit-ready and will not be carrying out any more vehicle checks, post-Brexit, than are already being carried out – apart from those for food, livestock and migrants.

However, he did not explain the complete picture.

Following a meeting at the Port, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “At our meeting in Calais today Monsieur Puissesseau made it abundantly clear that when a vehicle arrives at Dover, whether destined for Calais, Dunkirk or Coquelles, if the driver is without their pre-customs declarations or without a permit (if it’s a British driver) or a transit document (if delivering to a different country), they will be rejected.

“To complete that initial documentation check could take up to four or five minutes – still a significant delay. If the declaration is not fully completed, the shipping lines will reject the vehicle – it will have to turn away or park up to get the declaration completed.”

But to access that process British businesses will have to complete the right documentation in the first place.

Burnett added: “With 11 weeks to go until we leave the EU, we have nowhere enough clearing agents with sufficient knowledge to give business the help and advice they need.”

British businesses won’t have time to put the processes in place themselves – they simply don’t have the resources.

“We also need to be aware that the customs process has still not been agreed from a French perspective. They may well be checking trucks, despite Chris Grayling’s belief that this will not be the case. The French customs may well check for clearance documentation at Calais, Dunkirk or Coquelles.

“There may even be checks at Calais to check the export declarations. This has not been clarified but in the event of these checks, there will inevitably be long queues around the Port.

“In addition, the number of migrants we have seen today clearly shows that the issue has definitely not gone away. Delays at the Port will simply act as an even greater magnet to those intent on reaching UK shores by whatever means possible – usually on the back of a truck.”