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Gridlock: UK warns industry to prepare for Brexit or face chaos

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain told businesses on Wednesday to prepare for paperwork or face 100 km-long queues of trucks when the country fully leaves the EU next year, prompting accusations that the government was setting up industry to take blame for any chaos from a botched Brexit.

FILE PHOTO: Vehicles arrive at the Port of Dover, Britain, August 14, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra/File Photo

Britain formally left the bloc in January but remains in a status quo transition period that expires at the end of this year.

The government is negotiating new trade rules with the bloc at talks that have been stalled. But Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told importers and exporters they would have to complete extra trade paperwork whether there is a deal or not.

“The consequences of a lack of business preparedness will be not just economic opportunities missed for those companies who don’t prepare, but potentially much wider disruption,” Gove told parliament.

Opposition Labour lawmaker Kevin Brennan said: “This statement seems to be all about passing the blame onto business for the chaos being caused by his government.”

The country’s logistics and freight industry has long complained of a lack of detail from government to prepare.

Dover, in the southeast of England has been Britain’s main gateway to Europe since Roman times, and now handles 17 percent of the United Kingdom’s goods trade. Up to 10,000 trucks a day pass through with everything from perishable food to medicines.

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Under the government’s reasonable worst case scenario, up to 70% of trucks travelling to the EU might not be ready for new border controls, leading to queues of around 7,000 lorries and a wait-time of two days to navigate the border.

This disruption would peak in January, with any return to normality dependent on how quickly businesses adapted.

The government said it has worked with industry to build an IT service to enable drivers and hauliers to complete a border readiness check, with only those compliant vehicles allowed to enter the port area.

To avoid clogging the port at Dover, trucks entering the surrounding county of Kent would be required to obtain access permits, Gove said.

Reporting by Kate Holton, William James, Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden, editing by Stephen Addison and Peter Graff

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