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Planes, trucks, automobiles ... and Brexit: Here's why the UK has been focusing on transport plans

Here’s all the news about transport woes that came out in the weeks leading up to the Brexit deal vote.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

IN THE PAST few weeks before the Brexit deal, we’ve seen headlines about 89 trucks in a tailback at Dover, shipping companies with no ships, and about permissions to fly planes.

Next week, the Irish government is planning to announce its transport plans if there is a no-deal Brexit, the same week that the House of Commons is due to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement.

So why the focus on traffic, on land, sea and in the air? It’s been suggested that the Port of Dover test – carried out a week before the crucial vote on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – was aimed at scaring MPs into voting for the unpopular deal to avoid the uncertainty of a no-deal scenario.

The British government has said it was testing the practicalities of a no-deal Brexit – which would mean more custom and regulatory checks at ports and airports – now that leaving with no deal seems increasingly likely.

Traffic delays are also the most tangible effect of a no-deal or hard Brexit, and give locals around ports and airports a preview of what could be in store immediately after the UK leaves the EU, as things begin to settle down.

Planes

With regards to airspaces, there’s little consensus on what planes can fly where after Brexit happens.

London and Brussels are making contingency plans that will allow UK carriers to continue flying to EU countries even if the Withdrawal Agreement is never approved.

But these are bare-bones arrangements that don’t allow British airlines to conduct intra-EU flights – meaning, as a passenger, you can fly from London to Paris and back to London without extra checks, but can’t fly on from Paris to Munich or another EU destination.

Meanwhile, Aer Lingus’ parent company IAG has been told this month that its plans to continue flying around Europe after Brexit won’t work. European carriers have to be 50% EU-owned and controlled to be allowed to fly within the bloc, which will be a struggle for the company.

IAG were going to cite trusts and companies to get around this, according to the Irish Times, but it’s not certain that this will get them the approval they need.

Ships

Migrant Channel crossing incidents HMS Mersey on patrol near Dover. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

The UK has spent more than £100 million on chartering ferries to mitigate the risk of “severe congestion” at the port of Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The government has struck deals worth €117 million with British, French and Danish ferry companies that would allow for almost 4,000 more lorries a week to use other ports on England’s south coast to prevent a bottleneck at Dover.

“This significant extra capacity is a small but important element of the Department for Transport’s no-deal Brexit planning,” said a department spokesman.

This includes a company called Seaborne Freight, which was awarded a £13.8m contract despite having no ships, and whose terms and conditions on its website were copied and pasted from a food delivery firm.

“It is the responsibility of the customer to thoroughly check the supplied goods before agreeing to pay for any meal/order,” the company’s website stated, according to the Guardian.

Trucks

This was the latest On Monday, 89 trucks took part in a government exercise for coping with possible Channel gridlock caused by a no-deal Brexit, assembling on a disused airport runway that could be turned into a giant lorry park.

Nearly 100 lorries descended on Manston airfield in southeast England, which has been identified as a possible holding facility under contingency plans for leaving the European Union without a divorce agreement on 29 March.

As part of the test, the vehicles then made two trips in convoy to and from the Port of Dover along a route far less used by trucks than the main highway from London.

“Today’s trial cannot possibly duplicate the reality of 4,000 trucks being held at Manston airport in the event of a no-deal Brexit,” said Richard Burnett, head of the Road Haulage Association.

It’s too little too late – this process should have started nine months ago. At this late stage it looks like window dressing.

The exercise was also held with the hope of preparing locals for the traffic that would be created around the Port of Dover by a no-deal Brexit.

On Thursday, Sky News broke the story that Honda was planning to halt production for six days after 29 March, when Brexit is scheduled to happen.

The UK manufacturing branch of Honda said that it had been assessing “how best to prepare for any disruption caused by logistics and border issues”after Brexit, and decided it would pause production until an outcome from the deal has been achieved.

- with reporting from AFP

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