Plans for avoiding major disruption around UK ports due to a no-deal Brexit are “worryingly under-developed,” MPs warn today.
The warning comes from the Public Accounts Committee which adds that there is a “real risk” that the Department for Transport will not be ready in the event of the UK departing the EU without a negotiated deal.
“This risk is increasing as time runs out to deliver what is needed,” the committee adds.
The lack of detailed information provided to businesses to help them prepare and the secrecy surrounding discussions through the use of non-disclosure agreements is hampering businesses’ ability to plan, its says in a report published this morning.
Chairman Meg Hillier, Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, said: “The future of road, rail, maritime and air access to Europe after Brexit remains unclear and the Department for Transport has a critical role in ensuring the UK is prepared.
“With so little time remaining, there is still much to do. The risks associated with no-deal are severe, yet plans for avoiding disruption around major ports in particular are worryingly under-developed.
“The department plans to spend £30-35 million this year on Project Brock, intended to manage traffic and lorry-queuing at Dover. But it is still to carry out proposed desk-based testing of the system and engagement with businesses has been poor.
“The secrecy around the department’s preparations, and the shortcomings in assurance on its progress, are a potentially toxic combination.
“We accept the continued uncertainty over the final shape of Brexit adds to the complexity of the challenge. But the department’s Brexit work is simply too important to get wrong.
“It must be more open about what needs to be achieved, and work with business and others to deliver it. We urge it to respond meaningfully to our concerns in the weeks ahead.”
Committee deputy chairman, Conservative Cotswolds MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, said: “Our report makes it clear that the Department for Transport has a great deal to do before we leave the EU on 29 March 2019, especially if no deal is reached.
“It needs to make whatever contingencies necessary to ensure that disruption to passengers, goods and services arriving or leaving by road, air or sea is kept to the bare minimum.
“I am concerned, in particular, that the movement of goods continues which will mean the port of Dover will need to operate at an optimal level and that more goods will need to travel through other ports.“
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