Lorries queue for miles along M20 in Kent as Brexit trade deal deadline draws near

18 December 2020, 14:35 | Updated: 18 December 2020, 16:47

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Lorries have once again been pictured queuing for miles along the M20 motorway in Kent with long delays leading up to the end of the Brexit transition period.

Four days of congestion have riddled the county's roads due to the sheer weight of traffic and freight trying to make its way into Europe.

From 1 January, those leaving Britain for France will face stricter checks at ports and will need their passports stamping as the Brexit transition period expires at midnight on 31 December.

These measures have prompted concern over delays at the border and have already caused chaos for the towns of Dover, Folkestone and Hythe as businesses rush to stockpile goods in fear of a No Deal Brexit.

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Lorries wait in line along the hard shoulder of the M20 motorway in Kent
Lorries wait in line along the hard shoulder of the M20 motorway in Kent. Picture: PA
There are fears freight issues will get worse in Kent after the Brexit transition period expires
There are fears freight issues will get worse in Kent after the Brexit transition period expires. Picture: PA

Pictures taken this morning have revealed the volume of traffic queuing throughout Kent, with most waiting more than an hour to reach the Eurotunnel terminal.

The images show hundreds of lorries waiting in the hard shoulder of the M20 as checks take place further ahead.

In Dover, the Traffic Access Patrol scheme (TAP) for the A20 was kept in place for the fourth day running, meaning vehicles entering the town via the road will be limited to 40mph.

CCTV footage from Highways England showed traffic jams across southern Kent on Friday morning.

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Lorries have been queuing up along Kent's roads for four days in a row
Lorries have been queuing up along Kent's roads for four days in a row. Picture: PA
One lorry driver risks stepping into the dual carriageway along the M20
One lorry driver risks stepping into the dual carriageway along the M20. Picture: PA

It comes as a ports boss pleaded for more funding from the government to ease traffic problems on Kent's roads.

The Port of Dover's CEO Doug Bannister urged the government to increase funding for passport checks to help reduce congestion from the start of next year.

It comes after ministers refused a request of £33 million of funding for French passport checks for those leaving the coastal town, choosing instead to grant the port £33,000.

“Without this funding, it’s going to make the transition more challenging than it is today,” Mr Bannister told the BBC.

He added: “We are trying to move ourselves through the greatest period of uncertainty that this facility has seen.

“Being denied the funding for this programme – what that does mean is that we could see increased friction and increased hold-ups while we get through the opening period of the transition.”

Meanwhile, on Friday, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned there is only a "very narrow" path to a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK as both sides stand at the "moment of truth".

He told the European Parliament in Brussels: "It's the moment of truth. We have very little time remaining, just a few hours, to work through these negotiations in useful fashion if we want this agreement to enter into force on January 1.

"There is a chance of getting an agreement but the path to such an agreement is very narrow."

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that a Brexit deal is looking unlikely as "things are looking difficult".