Up to 200 lorries a day turned back from EU crossings

Lorries queueing at the check-in area for the Port of Dover
Lorries queueing at the check-in area for the Port of Dover (PA Wire)
15:38pm, Thu 21 Jan 2021
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Up to 200 lorries a day are being turned back from UK crossings into the EU because they lack the proper paperwork, officials have said.

Emma Churchill, the head of the border and protocol delivery group at the Cabinet Office, said between 3% and 8% of HGVs, 100 to 200 vehicles a day, were getting turned away at the ports.

Giving evidence to the Commons Public Accounts Committee she said the numbers were far fewer than had been expected following the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.

The general level of trader readiness has been higher than either we feared or anticipated

She said that in around half the cases it was because the drivers did not have a negative coronavirus test following the introduction of new controls by the French at the end of last year.

She said that traffic was “completely free-flowing” at the Channel ports with most drivers arriving with the correct documentation.

“That is because the general level of trader readiness has been higher than either we feared or anticipated,” she said.

“The level of turnbacks at the short straits is running at about 5% which is very, very much better than we had feared but we need to keep a very, very watchful eye on that as volumes increased.”

MPs on the committee however accused officials of downplaying the difficulties of moving goods to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK following the introduction of checks under the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

A fishing boat at Bridlington Harbou (PA Wire)

Alex Chisholm, the permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, said there had been shortages of a “small number” of food items on the supermarket shelves.

“There hasn’t been very much disruption. We are resolving the issues as they come in. The scale of the issues is not significant,” he said.

However Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin said that some operators were experiencing problems due to the way the rules were being applied.

“A lorry load of potato crisps was held up for two days because the haulier couldn’t prove the potatoes from which the crisps had been manufactured had not been imported into the UK from somewhere else. This is ridiculous,” he said.

HM Revenue and Customs chief executive Jim Harra insisted that because the crisps were destined for shops in Northern Ireland and there was no risk of them entering the EU, there was no requirement to prove their origin.

Officials also said that the problems which had led to delays for some seafood exporters to the EU following the end of the transition period had also now been resolved.

James Quinault, the head of the Europe group at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “There were issues in the early days particularly with the customs transit system.

“These are problems with EU system but we managed to solve them quickly and got guidance out to industry and those problems are now fixed.”

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