A no-deal Brexit has a number of consequences and as 29 March looms large, uncertainty has turned into a crisis and political deadlock, with businesses left in the dark as to what the future holds. With so much emphasis on customs regulation on goods coming in and out of the country, especially through Dover, Kent could be hit worst than most by a no deal Brexit.
Let’s take a closer look at where we are now and (if we can fathom it) where we are going.
Dover Trial Falls Short
According to a report by The Guardian, around 6,000 trucks might have to be held in or around Kent, including Manston Airport, in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This is largely because the documentation that will be required, should the UK leaves the single market, will take as long as eight hours for each truck to complete, causing unprecedented gridlock. This won’t just affect Dover but large parts of Kent, including the M3 motorway – which some say could become a virtual lorry park.
To prepare for this, the Department of Transport staged a trial to test its plan to use Manston airport as parking for 6,000 lorries. However, only 89 participated.
Rod McKenzie, managing director of the Road Haulage Association believes that the effort was in vain “With 89 trucks, in no way can it replicate a potential 6,000 trucks that might need to be held in or around Kent and Manston,” he said.
McKenzie stresses what approach could have yielded better results,“This planning should have been done many months ago, and preferably on a bigger scale.” He continues,“It should have been continuous and stress-tested, I doubt many truck drivers will be impressed by this.”
McKenzie also believes that a deal or at least a transition deal is needed for business to go smoothly again. “Business is simply not ready for a cliff-edge Brexit,” he said.
No Deal Brexit’s Impact on Kent Businesses and Schools
Among those most likely to be affected by Brexit are food businesses. When the UK leaves the EU on 29 March (presuming it does), these businesses will need to meet the EU’s importation requirements. Although the UK government is trying to secure a transition period until December 2020 before the law fully takes place, a no deal Brexit would mean no transition representing a huge shock to these businesses.
But regardless of whether a deal or no deal Brexit is reached, entrepreneurs and small business owners will need to adapt to the changes that will occur from leaving the EU. These would mostly concern companies whose line of business involves cosmetics, organic foods, and CE marked goods.
Schools might also need to close partially or completely due to the inability of some of their staff members to travel in the event of a no-deal Brexit. In advice issued by Kent County Council, it is suggested that school officials and staff walk or cycle to get to work in lieu of other transportation.
Logistical delays due to a no deal Brexit are bound to affect schools across Kent as well, with disruption in the delivery of food, medicines, fuel, and contractors among others.
Kent is said to experience the greatest impact among the schools across the United Kingdom, with the guidance predicting that the disruption will last for several months.
Sanitation and Health Risks
A no-deal Brexit can also cause difficulty of travelling around the county which can affect sanitation and health in the area. According to Kent Online, one of the risks include disruption of waste collection, thus the possible accumulation of rubbish around the county. Another one is not being able to transport deceased bodies to body storage or post mortem facilities on time, which can cause potential health risks to the people exposed to them. Lastly, air quality can also worsen outside school buildings due to HGVs idling outside. This can have detrimental on the health of the students if not managed well.
But probably the most pressing concern is the fact that food safety can also be affected. Kent Scientific Services, the institution responsible for testing for food safety uses chemicals imported from the EU. Likewise, it has relied so long on the fact that samples can easily be transported around the county. With a no-deal Brexit on the way, transportation and importation could pose a challenge. If this happens, there will be no way to determine whether imports are suitable for human consumption.
Providing care and support to the elderly and those with special needs will also be affected by this change. Caregivers will have difficulty attending to adults needing health and social care due to the impending difficulty in transportation. Likewise, those with special education needs will have difficulty getting to and fro school as well.
How Kent Council Aims to Address the Issues
But Kent Council is not one to turn a blind eye. In fact, in its Brexit Preparedness update report, it was mentioned that the council is requesting for £20 million worth of funds from the government for the improvement of Kent’s roads which will be made diversionary routes once Operation Brock, the freight management system that will be implemented in a no-deal scenario takes place.
To somehow aid in facilitating care for the vulnerable patients, the Council ordered social care services to pinpoint staff living very near especially vulnerable patients. This staff member will then be tasked to visit the patient should their carer not be able to attend to them.
While the Kent County Council are taking the necessary precautions to alleviate the worst case scenarios from a no deal Brexit, there’s still no telling what will really happen if the no-deal takes place. It’s also unsure whether these efforts will be enough to reduce the risks.
For Rob Bird, leader of the Opposition Lib Dem group, “The threats of a no deal Brexit are very real.” He continued, “So real in fact that Kent County Council has already committed millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money in order to mitigate the worst effects. We are still waiting for the government’s cheque.”
It’s difficult to give advice to businesses when the situation in Westminster is so fluid. Our advice is to keep abreast of all the goings on and the advice from Kent County Council and the Government. Other than that, just hold tight. It’ll be over soon (we hope).