'Cutting it tight': Dover port still awaiting Brexit infrastructure funds

By Lisa O'Carroll Brexit correspondent

Dover port is not Brexit ready because it is still waiting for government funds to be released for vital infrastructure for the new border operations, it has been revealed.

It comes as it emerged that the government was considering forcing drivers to obtain a special Brexit passport before entering Kent in a bid to avert queuing chaos in January.

Tim Reardon, the head of EU exit at the port, said the government was “cutting it quite tight” with just 100 days to go before Brexit is implemented on 1 January.

“The government has a funding scheme which is due to open for application later this month. Clearly that’s cutting it quite tight for stuff to be actually delivered and in place, when significant civil works are involved, by early next year,” he told MPs on the Treasury select committee on Tuesday morning.

The money needed to be “issued rather than talked about”, he said.

Chair of the committee, Conservative MP Mel Stride, said the government appeared to be leaving it “incredibly tight” and questioned why “in the latter part of September” there was still “talk about money being available for spades in the ground”.

Reardon said he was confident the port itself would be ready but that not everything was in its control.

His remarks come days after a leaked government “border and protocol delivery group” document raised the prospect of queues of up to 7,000 trucks on British roads in the event of drivers, carriers and ports not being Brexit ready.

One solution being mooted by the government is a special HGV passport, a Kent access permit (KAP), which would only be issued to drivers who had completed their paperwork before boarding ferries or Eurotunnel trains.

Labour MP Angela Eagle asked whether this would mean police guarding roads into Kent, raising the prospect of a Brexit border within the landmass of Britain.

“Who’s going to be patrolling the Kent borders to make sure that no lorry goes into Kent if it hasn’t got that passport?” she asked. “Where are the border posts for going into Kent going to be? It’s all very well saying we are going to need it, but are we going to have Kent border police or border guards?”

Confirmation of the KAP details are expected next week when the second border operating model is issued by HM Revenue & Customs.

Also eagerly awaited are details of how goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will be treated.

Sources said that behind the scenes “good progress” had been made at the UK and EU joint committee, which Gove chairs with the European commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič, and that the chances of security declarations being waived were good.

This is despite the explosive row between the EU and UK over the internal markets bill. It was confirmed on Tuesday that the committee will resume its work on Monday fuelling hopes of a breakthrough on Northern Ireland.